Take a Hike in a National Park
Last year, more than 318 million people visited national parks across the U.S.A. Although that’s a huge number, it’s pretty typical as far as annual visitations go. Those massive crowds keep coming each year because of the parks’ enduring power. Parks, a.k.a. “America’s best idea,” preserve wildlife, provide vital recreation, and protect priceless scenery. The National Park System includes more than 85 million acres and includes national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park site in every U.S. state. And while it’s well worth a trip to each of the country’s 418 parks (60 of which are “national”), some are more popular than others. The top 10 most visited national parks in 2018 were:
As you might expect, the summer months are the busiest time of year, so if you want to avoid crowds, plan your visit for another season. And if you also want to save some money when you go, take advantage of the National Park Service’s fee-free days. Although 303 of the 418 parks don’t charge entrance fees, the other 115 charge between $5 and $35. Luckily, there are at least five opportunities to enjoy free entrance each year (reservations, camping, concessions, and other fees collected by third parties are not waived). The exact dates of the fee-free days vary, but generally they are: Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, National Park Week in April, anniversary of the National Park Service in August, Public Lands Day in September, and Veterans Day in November. Check http://www.nps.gov for specifics.
If you’re looking for a family road trip destination, seeking solace on back-country trails (don’t forget your hiking gaiters!), want to watch wildlife, or sleep under the stars, consider visiting America’s national parks. And if you visit in the off-season, be sure to call ahead to be certain of driving conditions. Wind, rain and even snow can affect park roads and campgrounds any time of year.
So many parks, so much to do!
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