The spectacular scenery and rugged beauty of the United States is simply jaw-dropping: Misty mountain wilderness covered in old growth trees; dramatic canyons etched by wind or water eons ago; endless shorelines where never-ceasing waves crash onto a remote beach; powerful waterfalls that pour thousands of gallons of water over a precipice. Wouldn’t you like to share this grandeur with your kids or grandkids? Consider a visit to one of the amazing national parks of the U.S. during that last summer family getaway before the kids go back to school.
Find a National Park
America’s most treasured landscapes are protected by the National Park Service (NPS). The extensive system includes over 400 national parks and monuments, historical sites, scenic trails and recreation areas throughout the U.S. Whether you just have time to squeeze in one more quick weekend getaway or already have a final summer vacation planned, a National Park is not far away. To find one near you, check this complete list of National Park Service sites or search by state, activity or topic.
Education at National Parks
While taking in the breathtaking beauty of the natural landscapes may be the initial draw for visiting the U.S. National Parks, the National Park Service provides visitors unique educational opportunities for children to learn about the history, geology and native culture of the areas. What a great way to get the kids back into the swing of school – but they’ll have so much fun, they won’t even realize they are learning! Many of the national parks have a Junior Rangers program (ages 7-13) and a Little Cub program (ages 3-6). Potential Junior Rangers and Little Cubs can purchase an age appropriate, self-guided booklet ($3-4) at the visitor’s center to help them explore and learn about the park. They complete the booklet and attend a ranger-led activity to earn a badge or button. Kids of all ages can also learn about national parks all over the country through WebRangers, a web-based program with over 50 interactive games and weekly questions.
Adventure & Activities at National Parks
Nature activities are a central part of the fun. In the U.S. national parks you’ll find all manner of natural adventure including hiking, swimming, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and spelunking. Amateur, as well as professional photographers will find an unending source of subjects in the diverse natural settings. Horticulturist can study indigenous flora that they can’t find at home. By exposing children to the great wealth of nature found in our national parks, you might just ignite a passion in them that could become a lifelong hobby or even a career.
America the Beautiful Pass
Many national parks have entrance fees, usually per vehicle, but the NPS America the Beautiful annual pass provides access to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands for $80. Seniors over the age of 62 can get a $10 lifetime pass and the pass is free to active duty military and their dependents, including active members of the National Guard and Reserves.
Do your kids and yourself a favor and pick a national park to visit soon. Contact Covington’s vacation advisors to make the arrangements then go take a hike!