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National Park Week: April 21 – 29

CDC invites people everywhere to enjoy, explore, learn, share, and give back to America's nearly 400 national parks during National Park Week 2012, sponsored by The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks.

Photo: A group of children at a museumCelebrating the theme, "Picture Yourself in a National Park," National Park Week will run from Saturday, April 21 through Sunday, April 29. Throughout the country, visitors can enjoy the beauty and wonder of 84 million acres of the world's most spectacular scenery, historic places and cultural treasures for FREE!

With nearly 400 national parks – and FREE admission all week long – there are thousands of ways to enjoy this highly anticipated annual event. In fact, National Park Week is the perfect opportunity to introduce a young person to a national park because a park is the perfect place get active and stay fit.

From hiking to biking to swimming, nature walks, kayaking, or bird watching, there are great outdoor activities in national parks for visitors of all ages. By introducing kids to these majestic places, we give the gift of learning a healthy lifestyle and help guarantee the future of parks for generations to come.

National parks will mark the annual celebration with special events and activities including Volunteer Day on April 21, Earth Day on April 22, and Junior Ranger Day on April 28. From ranger-led hikes and kayak trips to camping and exploring, park visitors can plan their National Park Week at www.nationalparkweek.org. Discover information about events, special activities for visitors of all ages, how to share your park adventure with other travelers, and how to support the parks.

Here are 10 great ways to get some exercise and enjoy National Park Week:

Take a Hike
There are 18,600 miles of trails in national parks. Hit the trail for a short hike or a day-long expedition. Cross the Continental Divide on the High Line Trail in Glacier, go vertical on the Moro Rock Trail in Sequoia & Kings Canyon, or tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail. If you'd like to hike with an expert, many parks offer daily ranger-led guided tours, including the Everglades, Jean Lafitte, and Hot Springs. To help you stay hydrated, drink plenty of water while you enjoy the park.

Dive In
Enjoy 43,000 miles of national park shoreline. Walk on the beach, go for a swim, snorkel an underwater trail in the Virgin Islands, or dive the aquamarine water and fish-bejeweled coral reefs of Biscayne or the kelp forests and sea caves of Channel Islands. Or, take a canoe or kayak ride through Big Cypress to observe manatees and birds.

Go Underground
Travel below the surface and discover the dazzling sights found along more than 900 miles of passageways in caves. Check out Mammoth Cave – the longest cave in the world or the 14-acre Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. If you are really adventurous, sign up for a spelunking trip.

Sleep Under the Stars
Experience the simple pleasure of an evening campfire, sleep in the great outdoors, and wake up in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. Choose your setting – mountain view, ocean view, or even city view. The 12,000 campsites in national parks include spots in New York City and in Boston.

Go For a Ride
Some of the prettiest scenery you'll ever see is along the 5,450 miles of paved road in national parks. In fact, 1,100 miles are designated parkways designed especially for sightseeing. Just be sure to get out of the car at overlooks or trailheads and stretch your legs. It's amazing what you will find not far off the road. Grab a piece of fruit to enjoy as you wander to a waterfall at Shenandoah or meander through a meadow at Rocky Mountain.

View Wildlife
National parks are the best places to view wildlife in their natural habitats. Don't get too close but enjoy seeing everything from baby birds to two-ton bison in a park. Watch the strutting sage grouse perform its annual courtship dance in Grand Teton or the spring migration of grey whales at Point Reyes. Or, encounter prehistoric wildlife such as a saber tooth cat at Badlands or a Stegosaurus at Dinosaur. There are 233 national parks with preserved fossils, some of which date back two billion years.

Be a VIP
Help out as a Volunteer-In-Park on National Volunteer Day on April 21. Participate in the spring planting at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a shoreline clean-up at Golden Gate, or park day at Stones River. Check out a list of volunteer opportunities at http://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm

Go Green
Take part in Earth Day activities at many national parks. There will 50 exhibiters, food, music, and family activities at John Muir's birthday celebration at John Muir National Historic Site. Saratoga will host exhibits and an art show featuring pieces made from natural and recycled material. The Grand Canyon will have a variety of interactive exhibits at its largest ever Earth Day event. Perry's Victory & International Peace Memorial will host an Earth Day Jamboree. Carry a reusable bottle for easy access to water as you enjoy the Earth Day activities.

Explore, Learn, Protect
Kids five to 12 years old are encouraged to take part in free Junior Ranger programs in almost every national park. Ask for a Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor center and earn a badge by completing different activities. Many parks will host special events on Junior Ranger Day – April 28.

Take to Two Wheels
One of the most popular things to do in a park is ride a bike. You set your own pace and can easily stop to relax or take in the view when and where you want. One of the newest bike trails was recently built in New River Gorge. More than 1,400 Boy Scouts and leaders volunteered 78,544 hours to construct a 12.8-mile mountain bike trail. Other popular parks for biking include Acadia which has 45 miles of old carriage roads, Canyonlands, home of the 103-mile White Rim Road loop, and the C&O Canal and its 184-mile long towpath.

Be sure to share photos, videos, and stories from your national park travels at www.nationalparkweek.org. The site also contains a calendar of events and plenty of information on how to visit and support national parks.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: April 23, 2012
  • Page last updated: April 23, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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