Reminder: National Parks Week begins today

National Parks Week begins today!Despite the fact that it was nearly shut down by the budget crisis, National Parks Week kicks off today and will run through next Sunday, April 24th. In celebration, many parks in the system will host great events all week long, and all admission fees will be waived to the parks, and dozens of national monuments as well. To find a fee-free destination near you, click here.

Some of the special events scheduled to take place during Parks Week include a celebration of nature at NatureFest 2011 in the Congaree National Park, training junior rangers at the Explore, Learn Project in Shenandoah NP, and a birthday party for John Muir at the Muir Woods National Monument in California. Muir was an early proponent of the parks and instrumental in getting the U.S. Government to protect those lands.

In addition to the official park events, a number of affiliated organizations are also offering some great deals for visitors to the parks this week. For instance, the Grand Canyon Lodges are offering a “buy one, get one free” deal on their sunset tours of the West Rim, and there are discounts available on lodging near a variety of parks throughout the U.S. Click here to view a list of special offers and discounts that are available.

As for me, I’m heading to Joshua Tree to attend an event that is being sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. I’ve never been to this particular park before, so I’m looking forward to the visit, during which I’ll be helping to preserve the habitat of the endangered desert tortoises that live there.

So? Do you have any plans to take advantage of National Parks Week? Where are you going?