@American_Latino Expedition Looks To Bring Diversity To National Parks

In an effort to increase diversity in America’s national parks, the American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation has announced a nation wide search for bloggers to take part in an exciting new adventure. Yesterday, the ALHF launched the @American_Latino Expedition, which will explore three parks this summer while simultaneously raising awareness of the contributions of American Latinos to each of those locations.

The @American_Latino Expedition project will focus on education, park stewardship, outdoor recreation and exploration inside Olympic and Mesa Verde national parks in Washington and Colorado respectively, as well as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area located in Arizona and Utah. With that in mind, the ALHF is looking for groups of bloggers to visit each location and share their experiences with readers. That includes using outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to creatively engage their audiences as well. In exchange for their efforts, all expenses – including airfare, lodging and most on-site excursions – will be completely covered.

The deadline for applying to take part in this program is June 14, and the ALHF is quick to point out that you don’t have to be Latino to be selected. Any group with an active social media following, or even adventurous families, are encouraged to apply. To find out more about the project and to download the applications, click here.Engaging minorities in outdoor activities is a bit of a hot button topic at the moment. A disproportionately small number of visitors to the national parks are from minority groups and this project is hoping to change that to a degree. In fact, the ALHF says that there are now more than 54 million Latinos living in the U.S. and yet they make up just 9 percent of the visitors to the parks on an annual basis. The @American_Latino Expedition looks to increase that number accordingly.

It should be noted that the ALHF has partnered with both Aramark Parks and Destinations and outdoor gear retailer REI on this project. Aramark will handle lodging and other accommodations while traveling in these parks and the selected bloggers will also be fully outfitted for their adventure with some great equipment from REI.

National Parks Foundation picks 5 most romantic park getaways

Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to incorporate a little romance into your life, especially if it happens to involve travel as well. Earlier this week, the National Parks Foundation selected their five most romantic national park escapes, and they are so good, they’re practically guaranteed to score you points with your significant other.

The five romantic getaways include watching the sunset at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California; paddling together through Florida‘s Everglades National Park; taking a scenic wagon ride in Oxon Cove Park, Maryland; going birding along the Padre Island National Seashore in Texas; and strolling along the beach in the Virgin Islands National Park.

What I like about this list is that it incorporates a little something for everyone. Active couples can paddle, hike or even snorkle, while those looking for a bit more relaxed experience have several options as well. These parks are scenic, and somewhat lesser known, but most definitely romantic all year round. I’ve personally been to several of the places on the list, and can attest to how wonderful they are – both as a couples escape and as an adventure travel destination.

So, if you missed the mark on Valentine’s Day, or are already planning ahead for next year, this is a great list to give you some ideas. Of course, if you’re a hopeless romantic at heart, why wait? Start planning your romantic national park getaway now.

Vote for America’s favorite park!

Earlier this week, the National Parks Foundation, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, launched the second annual “America Is Your Park” campaign, during which American’s are encouraged to vote for their favorite local, state, or national park. The campaign will run through September 6th, with the park receiving the most votes winning a $100,00 grant to help restore and enhance recreation areas for visitors.

There are four different ways to cast your vote for your favorite park, most centered around the website LivePositively.com. Visitors to the site can sign on and cast a vote directly for the park of their choice, or alternatively they can upload a photo of themselves in that park. Beginning August 10th, they’ll also have the opportunity to upload video as well. Photos and videos also count as votes. Alternatively, starting July 11, you’ll be able to vote by checking into a park by using Facebook Places on your mobile phone too.

Last year, more than 1.6 million votes were cast, earning Bear Head Lake State Park in Minnesota the distinction of being “America’s Favorite Park.” A similar number of votes are expected this year with the top three parks all earning a slice of the money to help with enhancement projects. First place gets the $100,000 mentioned above, while second place earns $50,000 and third gets $25,000.

This is your chance America. Vote for your favorite park and you just might have the chance to make it even better.

Ten Can’t Miss Hikes Courtesy of the National Parks Foundation and Merrell

Just in time for National Trails Day, the National Parks Foundation and outdoor gear company Merrell, have announced their ten “can’t miss” hikes for the summer ahead. As you can imagine, each of these trails can be found inside a national park, and each makes for a fantastic experience guaranteed to wow outdoor enthusiasts and casual trekkers alike.

The ten trails are located in a variety of places across the country, which means that there is likely to be one of these routes located in your region, no matter where you live in the U.S. They also cross through a wide variety of environments, including mountains, deserts, caves, and more. The shortest of the routes is a mere 650 yards in length, while the longest stretches for five miles through scenic California backcountry, ensuring there is something for everyone on the list.

The ten can’t miss hikes, according to the NPF and Merrell, are as follows:

1. Painted Desert Rim Trail (1 Mile)
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

2. Wapama Falls (5 Miles)
Yosemite National Park, California

3. Rim Rock Nature Trail (1 Mile)
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

4. Turtle Mound Trail (.3 Miles)
Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

5. General Bragg Trail (5 Miles)
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Georgia
6. Interdune Boardwalk (650 Yards)
White Sands National Park, New Mexico

7. Canyons Trail (3.5 Miles)
Jewel Cave National Monument, South Dakota

8. Dog Canyon Trail (4 Miles)
Big Bend National Park, Texas

9. Andrews Bald Trail (3.5 Miles)
Great Smokey Mountains, Tennessee

10. Ocean Path Trail (4 Miles)
Acadia National Park, Maine

There you have it! Ten great trails in ten great national parks locations. Any one of these hikes are a fantastic way to spend National Trails Day, or any other day this summer for that matter. So lace up your hiking boots and get a move on!

What is your favorite trail?

[Photo Credit: chensiyuan via WikiMedia]