We’re already a month into spring in the Northern Hemisphere. If you haven’t yet kicked off this season’s hiking, kayaking, or whatever outdoor shenanigans you’re into, the U.S. National Park Service is offering the perfect excuse this weekend. Saturday, April 20, marks the beginning of National Park Week 2019 and the service is celebrating with a full day of free exploration for park visitors.
A total of 418 National Parks are spread throughout the United States, from Alaska to Florida. Entry fees are as much as $20 per person or $30 per vehicle, and that price often doesn’t include parking permits. This weekend is a great way to save some money and check out a park you’ve never visited. Of course, the most significant savings can be found at the county’s most expensive parks. These include the most iconic like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. If you’re planning a visit to any of these more popular parks, our suggestion is to arrive very early to not only avoid the crowds but also take advantage of sunrise and the best natural lighting for landscape photography.
The first annual National Park Week kicked off in 1991 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National Park Service. It’s a way to honor the service’s long-standing mission to, in their words, “preserve our country’s natural and cultural heritage.” It’s been a wildly successful tradition ever since; every day is dedicated to a unique environmental or eco-friendly theme. In addition to being a fee-free day, this Saturday is also National Junior Ranger Day, which is ideal for taking the kids on a hike. Plus, Monday, April 22, will celebrate Earth Day; Throwback Thursday will encourage national park lovers to share their past experiences on social media and take part in history-themed talks and tours; and Saturday is marked as Bark Ranger Day, an entire day dedicated to pet-friendly park programs.
No advanced reservations are required to take advantage of National Park Week fee-free promotion. Just pick your park (Find Your Park is an excellent resource for inspiration if you’re unsure) and show up. The National Park Foundation recommends calling the park’s visitor center for any insider tips on where to park and which areas within the park are best to avoid the crowds.
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