On August 25, 2016, America’s National Park Service (NPS) will turn 100 years old. But the park service hardly plans to rest on its laurels. Instead, the centennial is meant to herald in the next century of environmental stewardship, conservation of America’s treasured natural spaces, and recreation opportunities for Americans and tourists of all stripes.
But despite all that’s been achieved by the National Park Service over the last 100 years, American parks are currently facing some challenges. Legislation introduced earlier this year inhibits the president’s ability to designate new parks, while recent challenges to environmental laws have made it harder for parks to maintain some of their conservation efforts. In short, America’s parks need support now more than ever.
Luckily, supporting national parks is a mutually beneficial proposition. Stunning scenery, breath-taking adventures, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences await any traveler to America’s parks. Here are just some of the many ways visitors can get in on the centennial action.
- Find a park near you. Don’t have the time or money to travel far next year? No problem. With 408 NPS areas throughout the country, you’re all but guaranteed to find one nearby. Check out the NPS’ Find Your Park site to locate a park near you.
- Learn why the NPS matters. Read up on the origins of the NPS and the visionaries who made it a reality here. Then peruse the NPS’ database of success stories to begin to understand the full scope and impact of the National Park Service.
- Go “glamping.” Not sure if camping is for you? Then visit any of these accessible, gorgeous parks, which allow visitors to take in the scenery while being just as rugged (or not) as they’d like. Yosemite, Olympic, Channel Islands, and the Grand Canyon (which offers plenty of hotels for the anti-camper) all make the list.
- See more wildlife than ever before. Visitors to Washington’s North Cascades National Park (northwest of Seattle) will be dazzled by the park’s jagged peaks, plentiful glaciers, and hugely diverse wildlife population: Bald eagles, bears, grey wolves, moose, and over 200 species of birds all roam the park, so do not leave your binoculars or camera at home
- Cool down in the peak of summer. At Montana’s Glacier National Park, snow remains on the ground well into August. That makes summer hikes and camping a whole lot more bearable—no more waking up at 6 a.m. barely able to breathe because of how hot it is inside the tent.
- Take a road trip. The Grand Circle Road Trip offers something for every type of traveler as it takes adventurers to national parks and urban centers across Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Don’t have the time for a multi-state trip? Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road loops roadtrippers along 50 miles of some of the most stunning scenery in the American west.
- Get historical. At Boston’s Adams National Historical Park, visitors can explore the former home and library of John Quincy Adams and his family. This urban park trip allows tourists to skip the tents and hit the sheets at one of Boston’s classic hotels instead.
- Make like the POTUS. Earlier this year, President Obama visited Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park. Prior to his Alaska trip, he also officially renamed Alaska’s Mt. McKinley to its original name, Mt. Denali. Visit one of these two parks (or both!) to soak up the presidential vibes.
From Alaska to Boston, Montana to Washington, and pretty much everywhere in between, the United States is teeming with treasures. As the National Parks celebrate their centennial anniversary, be sure to get out there and explore everything they have to offer.
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