Tag Archives: National Park Service

Happy Birthday, NPS!

By now, you are probably aware that the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday today, August 25th! And, it got us a present: free entry to all NPS parks and monuments today and for the whole weekend! Yessiree! The 124 parks that usually charge admission are completely free to enter, which takes a chunk of the cost out of more than 400 ways national park-goers have to explore something wild, imbued with history, AND awe-inspiring all at once.

[Image: www.nps.gov]

One hundred years of juuust enough development so you can explore, really branch out, and find genuine, quiet solitude (especially with a back country permit), but ideally not get completely lost. Cheers! [Image: www.nps.gov]

And not only is the NPS throwing its boom gates wide open, but there are state parks departments across the country also offering free admission today! New Hampshire State Parks are on board in the east, as Washington State Parks open their arms in the west.

Over the weekend, you can have a first-hand encounter with some of the wonder preserved at our national parks, monuments, battlefields and historic sites. Among the many splendors at our national parks, you can take in waterfalls or tour earthwork forts. You can hike up mountains, or maybe see (and stay a safe distance from) bison, bighorn sheep, or elk. Maybe you’ll catch sight of an elusive wolf pack or share the shade of a stately saguaro. Or you could possibly even find yourself exploring caves, swimming in an ocean, lake, or river, engaged in watching a reenactment, or simply taking a stroll somewhere beautiful. The National Parks are the gateway to our heartland!

[Image: www.whitehousehistory.org]

Then-President Teddy Roosevelt undoubtedly squinting against the sun (it was really bright, okay?) as he looks at the future–the preservation of natural wonders that could almost bring tears to a Rough Rider’s eyes. Almost. [Image: www.whitehousehistory.org]

However we take in the splendor of our natural resources, it is important to remember that while the NPS centennial is an achievement that we’ve all had a hand in simply by visiting or voicing our appreciation for the parks, there is still work to be done. These priceless park landscapes have largely been pristine for millions of years, but they increasingly face challenges posed by our ever-changing world. Celebrating the NPS Centennial equally honors our nation’s conservation efforts, and draws attention to the action required to preserve it for another hundred years, and another hundred after that, for ourselves and the generations yet to come. Whatever your views on this journey we’re all on, visiting a national park this weekend is a great way to learn about the resources around you, our effect on them, and how we can work together to make them even better.


[Image: www.whitehouse.gov]

President Barack Obama looks out at the Grand Canyon, and beyond taking in the awesome scenery, perhaps considers the next one hundred years of the National Park Service, to which he has added 27 new monuments during his presidency. [Image: www.whitehouse.gov]

If you aren’t able to celebrate in a park on the 25th or this weekend, National Park Service gates are open again for National Public Lands Day on September 24th, and on Veteran’s Day in November. For a full run-down on what all is going on at a national park near you, there’s a full events feed on the Pocket Ranger® National Parks Passport Guide mobile app!

National Get Outdoors Day

Want an excuse to have an outdoor adventure? Well, to be honest, you really don’t need an excuse—if anything, you probably need a reason not to get out there instead! Whether you’re looking for a reason or an excuse, though, it is now here in the form of National Get Outdoors Day.

Saturday, June 11 is this year’s National Get Outdoors Day, and you can partake in some amazing outdoor adventures at a local state or national park. Here are just some of specific events that you can enjoy with your loved ones!

People outdoors.

It’s time to explore the great outdoors! [Image: http://theadventureblog.blogspot.com/]

Upper Kern Cleanup, California

The Sequoia Recreation, which is a division of the California Land Management within the U.S. Forest Service, meets every year on the second weekend of June (this year, they’ll be meeting on June 11) to join together and clean the Upper Kern area. The Kern River is a valuable resource as a clean and safe waterway, and volunteers work relentlessly each year to ensure that its remains as such.

Learn more information here.

Get Outdoors Family Fishing Picnic, Pennsylvania

Bring your whole family out for a relaxing fishing trip on Sunday, June 12 at the Tussey Mountain Pond. They’ll provide the tackle for anyone who wants to join in on this idyllic Sunday afternoon. So bring your rods and see what you can hook!

Learn more information here.

Kid in a log.

Peek-a-boo! [Image: http://www.getoutdoorscolorado.org/]

Loop Lake Shelbyville Bike Ride, Illinois

If you’re searching for an end of spring bike-venture, then look no further than Loop Lake Shelbyville ride! There are three options for cyclists of all levels: a short 22-mile ride, a medium length 46-miles, and a longer 65-mile trek. So whether this is your first time around the lake, so to speak, or you’re a seasoned bike tourer, this is a great way to get outside and enjoy yourself!

Learn more information here.

Family biking.

Nothing like a family bike ride! [Image: https://totalwomenscycling.com/]

Get Outdoors Adventure Awaits Expo, Washington

Looking to try a new outdoor activity? Then look no further than the National Get Outdoors Day Outdoor Expo at Millersylvania State Park on June 11! It’s a fun day for the whole family, filled with prizes, demos, kid activities, and the chance to learn about (or even try!) a new outdoor activity. It’s the perfect place to be if you’re looking to fill your summer up with outdoor fun.

Learn more information here.

This is just a sample of all the many parks that will be holding events this weekend for National Get Outdoors Day. You can find more participating areas here. And before you go, don’t forget to make sure you download your state’s Pocket Ranger® mobile app so you can make the best of your adventure. Happy travels!

National Park Week Celebration

As previously mentioned in one of our posts titled “The National Park Centennial,” the National Park Service turned 100 years old this week! And in order to commemorate this momentous event, the NPS launched a National Park Week starting from April 16–24.

So what does the National Park Week entail?

Free Park Entrance

hiking in mt. rainier

A hiker absorbing the impressive views of the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. [Image: www.nationalgeograpic.com/]

That’s right! National Park Week offers free admission through the week of April 16–24. The National Park Service typically offers a couple of free admission days throughout the calendar year, but this is the longest offering in celebration of the centennial. There are over 400 national parks, 127 of which normally charge an entrance fee. With this week not only is admission waived, commercial and transportation fees are also included in the package. Take note that reservation, camping tours, concessions, and other fees that may be collected by third parties are not included unless otherwise stated.

National Junior Ranger Day

junior ranger program

Junior Rangers proudly presenting their Junior Ranger patch and a Junior Ranger activity book. [Image: www.nps.gov/]

The National Junior Ranger Day will be held on April 16 for children, usually between the ages of 5–13 (though people of all ages are welcome to join). What’s the NPS Junior Ranger program, you ask? The Junior Ranger motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” engages children all around the country to take an oath in protecting, learning, and sharing their knowledge and experience about parks and as acting rangers. Youth participants will have a chance to make lasting friendship with other youth rangers and obtain knowledge and interest, if not passion, for national parks. Upon completion of the program, youth rangers will receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate.

Earth Day and National Park Instameet

yosemite instameet

A great photo of exploring Yosemite in the winter by @m.gracecortez. [Image: https://www.instagram.com/m.gracecortez/]

Earth Day on April 22 and National Park Instameet on April 23 are two activities that would be great to combine together. After getting involved in activities for preservation and protection of national parks that would let you be in touch with nature, join the #Instameet event on the 23 to meet fellow national park enthusiast. Share your own personal snapshots on Instagram and other social media platforms via photos and videos using the hashtags #FindYourParkInstaMeet, #FindYourPark, #EncuentraTuParque, and #NPS100.

Park Rx Day

park rx

A group of friends hiking across the marshes of Auyuittuq National Park. [Image: www.flickr.com/ © Peter Morgan]

April 24, 2016 will be the first ever annual National Park Rx Day! The goal of Park Rx is to promote green spaces and public health in the park. It aims to not only increase the relevance of parks but to also improve people’s moods, increase physical activity, and combat obesity. This is a great way to get in touch with nature and also improve one’s physical and mental health.

National Park Week offers great experiences exploring the various national parks in the country. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in a community of enthusiasts eager to learn and share their knowledge about national parks and various endeavors by not only preserving these beauties but also to reducing their own stress in the process.

Want to get involved? Head on over to www.nps.gov for more information! And don’t forget to download the Pocket Ranger National Parks app available in the Apple Store and Google Play to have the information right within your fingertips. Have fun!

Death Valley National Park in a Day

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

A week is hardly enough time to truly enjoy a national park like Death Valley. I mean, you could spend an entire lifetime exploring the millions of acres there and still leave stones unturned at the end. And spending one full day in Death Valley National Park is hardly scratching the surface.

Sometimes all we have is a finite amount of time, and we have to make the best of it. That’s what I did a few weeks ago. It was an all-out blitz trying to see the desert peaks, salt flats, wildlife, craters, and everything else Death Valley has to offer all in one day. While it wasn’t easy, I left the park feeling accomplished and satisfied having seen what I saw. These are some of the best sites you need to hit at Death Valley National Park, whether you have a couple weeks to kill or just a day.

Zabreski Point

Zabreski Point at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

A major tourist point is Zabreski Point. The ease of access up to the top with its stunning views of the surrounding park and Sierra Nevada Mountain Range out in the distance make this place a go-to spot for anyone who visits the park. Hit it early in the morning for a glorious sunrise or even go there real late and watch the stars twinkle high above the sky with virtually no one around.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

High points are always most talked about, but no one ever mentions the low points. The lowest point in North America is right here in Death Valley National Park! It’s a salt flat that you can walk on and even lick the salt if you want.

Everyone parks at the parking lot, and to get away from the crowds, drive past the parking lot, coming from Furnace Creek, and park alongside the road. It’s also a shorter walk out to the salt flat.

Dante’s View

Daunte's View at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

High above Badwater Basin is where you’ll see what Dante saw. No one knows who Dante is, but what he saw is amazing here. Grab a postcard from the visitor center and snap a photo of where the photographer who snapped that postcard view was standing. Make sure you look down to the road to see the cars driving by the salt flat. They’re so tiny they look like little ants running around!

Artist’s Palette

Death Valley National Park at Artist's Palette

Image: Justin Fricke

Ever see a color palette that painters use to create something remarkable? That’s what the rock features look like here. The desert is full of beige and orange colored rocks, but come here to see rocks that are purple, turquoise, and loads of other colors you wouldn’t expect to find in the desert.

Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

Clean canyon lines and steep vertical features all over—that’s what you go to see at Mosaic Canyon. The road in is a bit of a bear and people flock to this place, but hike in a little further for some secluded areas that are completely worth it. Hey, the best things are worth fighting for, right?

If you only had one day to visit Death Valley National Park, where would you go? What would you try?

The National Park Service Centennial

Happy Birthday, National Park Service! We're a little early, but with spring's ebullient arrival, there's plenty of time to have our cake and eat it, too. [Image: www.pinterest.com]

Happy birthday, National Park Service! We’re a little early, but with spring’s ebullient arrival and all those mountains to see and trails to hike, we’ll need plenty of time to have our cake and eat it, too. [Image: www.pinterest.com/]

As avid parkgoers, you’ve probably heard that the National Parks Service is celebrating its 100th birthday on August 25 of this year. Since 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service, it has grown to serve over 300 million visitors annually. The various parks, historical sites, battlefields, and monuments have welcomed, taught, and tested generations of outdoors enthusiasts, natural historians, and students of all ages. It has expanded to preserve more than 50 million acres of wilderness and parkland, as well as some of the most recognizable features of the American landscape. And since there’s really no time like the present to get out and soak in some of that centenarian wisdom, here are a couple of parks highlighted for their age and relevance in bookending the NPS’s hundred year history.

The Very First Park

A picture of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone taken by one of the surveyors, William Henry Jackson, in 1871, before the park was in color--I mean, before the park was designated. [Image: nps.gov]

A picture of the Grand Canyon in Yellowstone taken by one of the surveyors, William Henry Jackson, in 1871 before the park was in color—err, before the park was designated. This image may well have served as evidence of Yellowstone’s immeasurable value as a publicly held and preserved resource. [Image: nps.gov/]

The oldest park run by the NPS is, of course, the unmistakable Yellowstone National Park. The area itself has been important to Native Americans for over 11,000 years, and the park as a federally managed entity predates the establishment of the NPS. In fact, Yellowstone was the first national park in the world when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the park into law with The Act of Dedication in 1872. The insistent lobbying of Ferdinand V. Hayden held that the park was an invaluable resource that should “be set aside for the pleasure and enjoyment of the people” rather than private development, due to the area’s vast richness and universal beauty.

Thankfully, the park today is still filled with all the grandeur and wonder that throws one’s sense of self into sharp relief. It feels good to feel so small, especially when confronted with the immensity of the earth’s many diverse facets.

A Great Divide

Grand Canyon National Park—which celebrated its own (97th!) birthday at the end of last month—is just about as iconic as it comes. At 277 river-miles long, one mile deep, and, in some places, 18 miles across, its colossal presence washes over the observer and vanishes beyond the horizon like a variegated adobe-hued, butte-waved ocean.

This space is objectively sacred, but never more sacred than to the American Indian tribes that have lineal claims to the area, such as the Paiute, Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai, to name a few. There are more than a dozen tribes whose forebears, the Ancestral Puebloan peoples, began settling in and around the Grand Canyon over 10,500 years ago. [Image: www.destination360.com]

The Grand Canyon is, well, grand. But it’s also deeply sacred to the distinct American Indian tribes who make, or once made, their homes along the canyon: the Navajo, Havasupai, Paiute, Zuni, Hualapai, and Hopi, to name just a few. The Hopi are believed to be descended from the Ancestral Puebloan peoples, who began settling in and around the Four Corners area and the Grand Canyon thousands of years ago. [Image: www.destination360.com/]

Since 1882, the U.S. government has largely wielded its control over the canyon by claiming it as a public space. In the intervening time, the parkland has been designated a game preserve, a national monument, and finally in 1919, the 17th U.S. National Park. The park is tremendously popular and sees around five million visitors annually, though few reach the bottom of the steep ravine. The centennial celebrations may prove to be interesting fodder at Grand Canyon National Park, as discussions around the planning of the Grand Canyon Escalade continue to play out. As the NPS enters its second century, the decisions made here will be very telling of the future it sees for itself. For now, the canyon stands as it has for time immemorial, with admittedly more amenities, hiking trails, and whitewater enthusiasts.


Torch-bearer because it is a beautiful testament to where we've been, and a good litmus for where we may be headed. [Image: wilderness.org]

Torchbearer, because it is a beautiful testament to where we’ve been and a good litmus for where we may be headed. [Image: wilderness.org/]

Although age is a curious barometer in the realm of timeless natural wonders, the “youngest” park managed by the NPS is Pinnacles National Park. Set aside by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as Pinnacles National Monument, the park has grown over time and was renamed in 2013, though all the NPS locations are treated with equal status regardless of title.

The park’s craggy, cave-riddled landscape is the millennia-worn face of the extinct Neenach Volcano, which erupted over 23 million years ago. The volcano has been split in the intervening time by the San Andreas Fault, and its halves have moved 200 miles apart! The park is also the home of some hatched-in-captivity California condors and is a must-visit for rock climbers and hikers (outside of the summer months, of course).

The buzz about this 100th year isn’t about the NPS as much as it is about us as Americans, travelers, and lovers of the natural world. And the NPS, no doubt in recognition of that, is looking to hear your experiences and stories. Beyond the newest, oldest, most popular, or those with the most recognizable natural features, we celebrate the connection that each of us forms individually with our favorite parks, and with what the national and state parks strive to at once cultivate and preserve across the country.

If you’re planning (or would like to plan) a trip to a national or state park near you, you’ll find downloading your state’s Pocket Ranger® mobile app or the Pocket Ranger® National Parks Passport Guide is a great first step. With park overviews, maps, facilities, and activities at your fingertips, you’re sure to have terrific time!

Every Kid in a Park

Two fourth graders show off their park passes, good for a year and any National Park, monument, forest, or wildlife area in the United States. [Image: www.doi.gov]

Two fourth graders show off their park passes, which are good for a year at any national park, monument, forest, or wildlife area in the United States. [Image: www.doi.gov/]

Last year, President Obama signed an initiative called Every Kid in a Park. The initiative, which took effect in the fall, makes it possible for any fourth grader in the U.S. to receive and use an annual pass from the National Park Service at any of the NPS parks, monuments, waterways, forests, or wildlife refuges. And while the initiative conveniently coincides with the National Park Service’s centennial year, the initiative looks past 2016 as it seeks to help young people develop an understanding of and respect for nature and everything our parks grant us. Its goal is to help preserve the parks’ integrity through future generations.

Some junior-rangers-in-training learn the ropes from a park ranger in Florida. [Image: floridastateparks.org]

Some Junior Rangers-in-training learn the ropes from a park ranger in Florida. [Image: floridastateparks.org/]

Even though the Every Kid in a Park initiative is for fourth graders and their families, there are many ways that kids of all ages can get involved at their nearest state and national parks. Perhaps the coolest among the numerous options (volunteering, anyone?) are the various Junior Ranger programs at state and national parks for kids as young as five and up. The Junior Ranger programs center on instilling general ranger qualities, like knowledge of the natural and human history preserved in our parks or how to experience nature without impacting the animals and plants that live there all the time. There are also more specific Junior Ranger programs that are dependent on the regional history of the parks they focus on. A kid can learn how to be a Junior Archaeologist in the Southeast, a Wilderness Explorer anywhere there’s a national wilderness to explore, or a Night Explorer pretty much anywhere it gets dark enough to see the stars.

you might not get a hat out of your Junior Ranger study, but a park ranger just might tip theirs at you. [Image: www.nps.gov]

You might not get a hat out of your Junior Ranger study, but a park ranger just might tip theirs at you in that slow knowing way. [Image: www.nps.gov/]

According to the NPS, more than 800,000 children have completed their workbooks and become Junior Rangers in just the last year, and every day more kids become familiar with the “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” motto. With these teachings, they learn about the diversity, extremes, and importance of our national lands and waterways as well as our history, environment, anthropology, and ecological impact. It’s great that there’s a program that puts kids in touch with the rich cultural significance of our shared lands and of those that have been here for millennia, whether human or not.

If travel to a national park during this time of year is too much hassle, but you want to get going on your Junior Ranger passport, don’t worry! The NPS offers the WebRanger program with lots of fun interpretive and educational activities to enjoy from your computer, perhaps while you await or plan your next trip to a national or state park. And as always, look to our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps for your next state park adventure!

Find Elk Roaming in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Forget the stigma and stereotyping you’ve heard about where to see elk roaming and grazing in wide open fields. Unless you’ve heard that you can see them on the east coast in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, because that’s true. We usually associate elk with western states like Wyoming and Montana, but elk are also indigenous to eastern states like North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

For centuries, elk roamed and grazed the southern Appalachian Mountain valleys. There were once thousands of elk on the east coast, until settlers came through and over-hunted them, pushing the animals out of their natural habitat. It’s believed that the last elks were shot in North Carolina in the 1700s and in the 1800s in Tennessee. Centuries went by before elk would roam the southern Appalachian Mountains again.

Part of the National Park Service’s goal is to reintegrate indigenous animals and plants that have been extradited from the areas in the past. Fast forward to 2001 when the National Park Service reintroduced 25 elk to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then another 27 the next year. Now the herds are doing well, and the park visitors love to see them graze when they come.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Sign

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

You need to be at the right part of the park at the right time of the day and year. Cataloochee Valley is where they hang out, and you’ll need to take exit 20 of I-40 in North Carolina. Turn right onto Cove Creek Road and hang on for the 11-mile ride through the mountains to get to the gate of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Drive safe, and plan for it to take 45 minutes from the exit to the park entrance.

Keep your eyes peeled because the herd could be anywhere—you just have to find them. Most of the time, they’re grazing in a big field surrounded by a wooded area at the back of the park. Follow the one and only road all the way back and set up your viewing area. Sometimes the herd is grazing in a field just off the side of the road.

Elk grazing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

You might want to bring a blanket, chairs, binoculars, and a camera to see them. If you’re into photography, bring a lens that’s at least 200mm since the elk are usually far away in the field. Be sure to keep your distance, staying at least 50 yards from the elk all the time. They are wild animals after all.

Your best chance at seeing some elk in Cataloochee Valley is in the spring and fall months. Get to the park early and enjoy the park, hiking and exploring the trails and learning the history. Or get to the park late to do the same. Then turn your attention to looking for some elk. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to view them.

Two elk at Smoky Mountain National Park

Image Credit: Justin Fricke