National Parks Provide Plenty Of Options For National Plan For Vacation Day On January 30

Choices for a national park vacation are as numerous as the stars above Crater of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho/NPS, Jacob W. Frank

Editor’s note: The following is a release from the National Park Service.

Hiking, camping and viewing wildlife have long been a part of national park vacations, but did you know you can also see prehistoric artwork, enjoy concerts, climb a lighthouse, or walk in the footsteps of civil rights leaders?

To help people plan their national park visits, whether for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or to uncover lesser-known gems or maybe even your neighborhood national park, the National Park Service is launching a digital campaign for national Plan for Vacation Day on Tuesday, January 30.

“We encourage everyone to explore the plethora of possibilities available year-round in national parks,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “Whether you like to spend free time relaxing on a beach, scaling mountains, or anything in between, there’s a park for you. From subterranean caves below our feet to the night sky thousands of miles overhead, there are limitless opportunities to enjoy favorite hobbies or discover something new in national parks.”  

Following are ten tips to help plan your next national park experience. 

Location, Location, Location 

We have parks and you might be surprised how close you are to them. Like almost in your backyard close. There are 428 national parks to explore, offering plenty of choices to experience nature, recreation or history. There is at least one in every state, including plenty in large cities. Beyond park boundaries, the NPS has connections with communities nationwide through national trails, national heritage areas, national natural landmarks, Discover our Shared Heritage travel itineraries, and more.

Get a hobby? Parks are my hobby! 

National parks are perfect places to enjoy your favorite hobby or try a new one. Interested in architecture, birding, horseback riding, military history, volcanoes, or waterfalls (Just don’t chase them. Maybe stick to the river and the lakes that you’re used to.) — we have a park for that! Want to travel back in time and peek at petroglyphs, dinosaur bones, mammoth fossils, or cliff dwellings? Marvel at critters including armadillos, bison, crocodiles, elephant seals,  and prairie dogs in their natural habitats (just don’t get too close)? Listen to the sounds of bluegrass, classical music, jazz, salsa, sea chanteys, or swing music in scenic or historic settings? We have parks for that!  

Parks after Dark 

Look up! Many national parks are out of this world places to star gaze. The International Dark Sky Association has even formally recognized more than 35 national parks as extraordinary places to enjoy dazzling, natural light shows. Another reason to keep your eyes on the sky this year is the total solar eclipse on April 8. The path of totality will cross over 27 national parks between Texas and Maine. No pressure, but it will be another 20 years before another total solar eclipse occurs over any portion of the United States! 

Rock On 

Geology rocks! National parks showcase significant geologic features, landforms, and landscapes enjoyed by visitors, studied by scientists, interpreted by artists, and taught by educators. Spectacular geologic phenomena including buttes, mesas, plateaus, pillars, natural bridges, spires, arches, needles, hoodoos, and pinnacles can be found in more than 50 national parks. Gneiss going! 

Water Parks 

Interested in water-related recreation? There are 88 ocean, coastal, or Great Lakes national parks to explore, plus many more with rivers, lakes, and tributaries. Relax on a beach, climb a lighthouse, see historic shipwrecks, hear pirate tales (aaarrrggghhh), watch marine wildlife, learn about maritime heritage, slide down a sand dune, board a historic ship, sleep on a houseboat, scuba dive, snorkel, fish, swim, paddle, or ride the rapids. Just please, please, please always prepare properly for your activity for your activity and keep safety in mind when in or near water.  

History Lessons 

National parks are more than just pretty places. They also collectively tell the story of America. As the country prepares to commemorate the 250th anniversary of its founding, cultural and historical parks bring history to life. Walk in the footsteps of inventors, presidents, soldiers, artists, and civil rights leaders—people who changed our nation. Hear about their visions and challenges. Visit farms, forts, historic homes, battlefields, and national cemeteries. Check out historic trains, canal boats, buses, sailing ships, cars, bicycles, and aircraft. See firsthand where history was made.  

Know Before You Go 

Don’t be caught by surprise, Plan Like a Park Ranger. Before heading to a park, be sure to check out or the NPS app to get updates on what to do and see, weather and road alerts, where to stay, if reservations are required, where pets can go, and so much more. During peak visitation season, it is especially important to have a plan and a backup plan. Consider alternatives to extremely popular sections of parks. Sometimes the path less traveled can lead to unexpected, delightful discoveries. It is also essential to plan for off-peak visits in case of seasonal or weather-related closures. 

Digital Dashboards 

Visit a national park with a touch of the finger!, the official NPS app, and social media platforms provide trip planning tips and can also transport you to national parks from the comfort of your favorite chair. Watch live cams of Old Faithful, Denali sled dog puppies, a bird’s eye view from the crown of the Statue of Liberty. See fun videos or virtual activities from parks near or far. And don’t forget to be social! Follow the NPS on social media to find up-to-date travel information, and amazing park stories, and why the early bird gets the face full of spiderwebs.  

Looking for a Deal? 

Most national parks are free every day, but 108 charge entrance fees ranging from $3-35. If you want to save some money, consider the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass for $80. You may also qualify for one of the free or discounted pass options for seniors 62 or older, current U.S. military members and dependents, Gold Star Family members, veterans, U.S. 4th graders, and individuals with a permanent disability. Passes provide free entrance to hundreds of federal recreation areas, including all national parks that charge an entrance fee. Each pass covers the passholder and all occupants in a private vehicle at sites that charge per vehicle or, the passholder and up to three adults at sites that charge per person.   

Become a Junior Ranger 

The popular Junior Ranger program encourages kids of all ages and abilities to explore, learn about and protect their national parks. At nearly every park, visitors can pick up a booklet of fun site-specific activities that spark curiosity and help them connect with the people, places, and stories of the NPS. Participants receive an official Junior Ranger memento as a thanks for engaging. 

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