The National Parks Are Fee-Free For The Next Week

Tomorrow marks the start of National Parks Week and to celebrate the National Park Service has waived all entry fees from April 21-29. That means that more than 100 parks that typically require visitors to pay at the gate will have free access for the next nine days.

America’s national parks include some of the most spectacular outdoor environments on the planet and Parks Week was created to remind us of the value of those wild places. With that in mind, the NPS has scheduled Volunteer Day for tomorrow when a host of park improvement projects will take place across the country. Other special events scheduled for the week ahead include celebrations of Earth Day on Sunday and Junior Ranger Day on Saturday, April 28. Check specific park schedules for events in your area.

Spring is always a great time to visit the national parks as the warm weather means the return of leaves to the trees and wildflowers in full bloom. In Yellowstone, visitors are likely to catch a glimpse of newborn bear cubs and bison calves while the incomparable Cherry Blossoms make a visit to the National Mall – an unforgettable experience. In the Great Smokey Mountains, the wildflower pilgrimage is underway and in the Grand Canyon, spring is the perfect time for a rim-to-rim hike. There are more than 397 national parks and monuments in the US system and each of them has its own unique spring feel.

To find the closest national park to you, click here. And if you aren’t able to visit during National Parks Week, the next fee-free day comes on June 9 in celebration of Get Outdoors Day.

Reminder: 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?

U.S. Government averts shutdown in time to save National Parks Week

As we all know by now, over the weekend U.S. lawmakers reached a budget deal that will keep the government in business through next Friday, April 15, as well as a tentative agreement on plan that will fund operations through the end of the fiscal year. Both houses are expected to debate the plan today and it is expected to be voted on, and approved, on Wednesday. That was all good news to the National Park Service, who were facing a complete closure of all of the national parks on the eve of a week dedicated to celebrating “America’s best idea.”

Next Saturday, April 16, marks the beginning of National Parks Week. The festivities will actually run through Sunday, April 24, and include free admission to more than a hundred parks and monuments across the country. (See a complete list here.) There are also more than 370 special activities planned across the park system for the week as well, all of which would have been canceled had a budget compromise not been reached.

The NPS isn’t the only one breathing a sigh of relief today. Many communities across the country rely on the national parks to help fuel their economies, and a shutdown could have spelled disaster for those places. The parks were actually shuttered as part of a government shutdown back in 1995 and 1996, and it is estimated that park-dependent communities lost an average of $14 million per day. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) estimated a shutdown this year would put that number closer to $30 million.

The fact that the parks remain open today is good news for travelers as well. Spring is a perfect time to visit many of the parks, which are coming alive after the long winter months. There is no doubt that many of us have trips planned to one or more of these fantastic places in the near future, and we don’t have to scramble to change or cancel those plans today. Barring any unforeseen problems with approving the budget this week, it seems that fans of the national parks can continue to enjoy their favorite destinations this year.

Celebrate National Parks Week with Call of the Wild

National Parks Week is now just a couple of weeks away, and the Park Service has a host of events planned to celebrate, not the least of which is free admission to nearly all of the parks. Adventure travel company Call of the Wild, which specializes in women’s only travel, is celebrating too, offering a 5% discount on all of their trips that take place in one of the national parks this year.

Travelers wishing to take advantage of the discount have plenty of great options to choose from. For example, there are multiple opportunities to go backpacking or hiking in Yosemite National Park, truly one of the crown jewels of the entire system. There is also an excursion to Zion and Bryce National Parks scheduled for October, and another trip to Joshua Tree planned for November as well.

Perhaps the most exciting option on the schedule however, is an August hike along the John Muir Trail, one of the most popular and beautiful treks in the U.S. That adventurous trip will take intrepid travelers on a six day journey through the Sierra Mountains of California, offering up spectacular vistas and crystal clear mountain lakes. While this hike isn’t for the uninitiated, it promises to be a once in a life time experience for those who take part. It also happens to be eligible for the 5% discount mentioned above.

Call of the Wild has been organizing women’s only adventure travel since 1978, which makes it one of the oldest companies to cater to the ladies only crowd. If you’re looking for a fun, adventurous escape with your girlfriends this year, you’ll definitely want to check out all the options they have to offer.

All national parks free during National Parks Week!

The National Park Service invites everyone to “come visit” during National Parks Week, which runs from April 17th to the 25th. To entice visitors to further take advantage of “America’s best idea’, they are waiving entry fees to all 392 parks in the system, making it easier than ever to enjoy springtime in the country’s most scenic places.

In addition to the fee free week, many of the parks will also be hosting a number of special events as well. For instance, Minute Man National Historic Park in Massachussetts will be the site of a reenactment of the opening battle of the Revolutionary War, while Fire Island National Seashore in New York will offer a 2.5 mile guided hike past the famous lighthouse there. And on Saturday, April 24th, dozens of parks will have a special event just for the kids, with National Junior Day Ranger Day giving them the opportunity to earn their ranger patch!

the celebration doesn’t end with the parks themselves however, as a number of the parks’ concessioners are also getting in on the fun, offering their own deals for the week. For example, the Furnace Cree Resort in Death Valley National Park is offering a a 2 for $20 dale on their special organic t-shirts, while other resorts are offering specials on accommodations, food, and other items.

So, enjoy the week. Visit your favorite parks. You certainly can’t beat the price!