Thursday, 23 September 2021

F Find Your Adventure

A Park for Everyone

When most of us think about national parks, our thoughts often fall to the major well-known sites like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Grand Teton, and Great Smokey Mountains. These sites contain amazing geological resources and unparalleled beauty, but the national park system is comprised of so much more than just stunning scenery.

pexels mario pais cie 4172528I’ve been to over 140 national park sites, and I plan to visit as many as I can. It’s difficult to say which one is my favorite because they all highlight something different. Some sites are about the scenery, while others preserve, protect, or interpret unique geological features, wildlife, history, and culture, or offer incredible recreational opportunities including hiking, mountain climbing, river running, and horseback riding, to name a few.

There are 423 national park sites distributed across the United States, including U.S. territories, encompassing more than 84 million acres. So, no matter where you live, it’s likely there is a National Park Service administered area nearby, and the diversity of the parks and sites will no doubt provide an opportunity for everyone. From the faces of presidents on Mount Rushmore, alligators in the Everglades, an active volcano in Hawaii, geysers in Yellowstone, giant trees in Redwoods, to the Statue of Liberty in New York, our national park system has it all.

As much as I love the national parks, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that many parks have grown in popularity to the point of being overcrowded, which can diminish the experience. Many parks are experiencing record-breaking visitation in 2021, and the wait to get into or to visit a particular site can be very long. On a recent outing, the line to buy cave tour tickets at a park that is normally easy to visit, was so long that we decided to move on and come back during a less popular time of year.  

Some parks limit visitation during peak times of the day or during the high season. It’s always good to do a little research before heading out to learn if there are any entrance restrictions or reservation systems in place. In highly-seasonal parks, I find it more enjoyable to visit during the shoulder seasons when crowds are lighter, but some services may be closed or limited. Most importantly, though, if visiting a popular site try to be as flexible as possible, be patient and considerate of other visitors, and enjoy. Information on all of the national park sites is available online at https://www.nps.gov/.

In 2021 the National Park Service has six entrance fee-free days where all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. On August 4, 2021, in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, entrance fees will be waived. The remaining entrance fee-free days for 2021 will be on August 25 (National Park Service Birthday), September 25 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day). For more information on entrance-fee free days visit https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm.

Whether you choose to visit in the off-season to avoid crowds or to take advantage of the fee-free days, I hope you discover something special and have an amazing experience.

Columnist: Kim McMahill

Picture Kim McMahill grew up in Wyoming which is where she developed her sense of adventure and love of the outdoors. She started out writing non-fiction, but her passion for exotic world travel, outrageous adventures, stories of survival, and happily-ever-after endings soon drew her into a world of romantic suspense and adventure fiction. After living in eight different states and enjoying a rewarding career with the National Park Service, she has returned home to Wyoming to focus on her writing and spend more time with family. She has published ten novels, over eighty travel and human-interest articles, and contributed to a travel story anthology. Find out more about Kim by visiting her blog and connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter @kimmcmahill

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