Friday, January 13, 2012

Free National Parks Weekend

When was the last time you took your family out to enjoy some Nature?  This upcoming, 3 day (for many) weekend just became the perfect opportunity!  (See the bottom of this post for other free dates in 2012.)

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr day, admission will be free to all 397 National Parks on January 14-16, 2012.

Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming

Where To Go?

Not sure where the nearest available parks are?  Use this park finding tool to locate yours!  Some parks may even have special events or activities taking place.

What To Bring?

This will obviously vary based on your activity plans, but as a general rule, wear some loose, comfortable (warm!) layers, and bring a sturdy pair of shoes for trail walking or hiking.  I can't stress the layers enough.  When hiking, sometimes you will get warm and shed some.  But you will never, ever regret having extra layers available when it starts to get cooler (for whatever reason - end of day, shade, wet clothing) and you or your little ones (or your even your big, underdressed husband) start to get cold and you are still a half an hour away from the car!  I put the kids extra fleece in my backpack, and tie mine around my waist.

If you are like my family, that can't go for more than two hours without nourishment (ok, it's mainly me) - mom's gonna want to pack The Snack Bag.  Nuts, granola, fruit, M&Ms, and pretzels are always in ours.  Bringing plenty of water is always a good idea.

Don't forget your camera - you'll be seeing gorgeous and unique sights, likely wildlife, and making memories!  For free.  Do you really have a better offer than that?

And last - allow me to say a word about hats.  They're so underrated!  Bring one with a brim for the sun, if it's warm.  And please bring a warm one for everyone in your party, if it's cold.  I always throw these in the back of the vehicle, and they always get used.  They can make a big difference in the comfort factor during your outing.

What To Do?

Well, this depends on what part of the country you are in.   Bring the gear I mentioned in order to be prepared, and then just go see what they have to offer.  Maps are typically distributed at the entrance, as well as suggestions for what to check out, based on your circumstances.

Personally, watching for wildlife is always a highlight for me on these type of adventures.  Bring binoculars if you have them.

My family and I plan to head to Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend, and perhaps do some snow shoeing.  This will depend on snow depth - if it's knee deep, it may be a bit much to haul baby-in-a-backpack!  But either way, we definitely plan to take in some fresh air, breathtaking scenery, and hope to glimpse some elk.

One last activity idea ... I think we will be bringing our sleds!

Can We Bring Our Dog?

Note that if you plan to bring the family dog - they typically do not allow them on the trail systems.   Many do have dog friendly areas where you can have them with you, or allow them on roadways and in picnic areas if they are on a leash.  

It's best to check the rules for the specific park before leaving home.   If it's hot or very cold, you don't want to find yourself needing to leave them in the car when you head out for a hike.

When Is Free Admission Available?

You can head to the Parks for free this weekend - January 14-16, 2012.   For the remainder of 2012, National Parks will also be free on the following dates: April 21-29, National Park Week; June 9, Get Outdoors Day; September 29, National Public Lands Day; and November 10-12, Veterans Day Weekend.

Read more:

1 comment:

  1. We so love the National parks. I'd love to visit them all. I think top of my list of the ones I haven't had a chance to visit are Glacier and Yellowstone.



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