We are right in the middle of National Park Week, which runs from April 15-23. And every national park in the country — there are 417 of them! — is allowing visitors to enter for free on April 22-23. For a list of every park by state, click here.
Last year, the National Park Service celebrated 100 years of protecting and preserving the nation’s parks and monuments. This year, the organization is getting back to basics with the theme “National Parks 101” — referencing anniversary year 101 and encouraging people to learn national park basics.
Throughout the country, hundreds of programs and events will encourage visitors to explore new places and enjoy new experiences.
Introductory programs during National Park Week include a Night Sky Party in Saguaro National Park, birding at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, a photo workshop at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, pottery making at Ocmulgee National Monument, Cajun music dancing at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and surf fishing at Gateway National Recreation Area.
Additionally, the second annual Park Prescription Day on April 23 will be filled with activities that showcase the physical, mental and psychological health benefits of time spent in nature. Supported by increasing scientific evidence, many medical doctors now write prescriptions to spend time outdoors as an antidote for ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. Dozens of parks — including Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Shenandoah National Park, Capulin Volcano National Monument, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Prince William Forest Park and Hot Springs National Park — will host activities that include hikes, health screenings, yoga and volleyball.
National Park Week also coincides with Earth Day on April 22, and several parks have special events scheduled.
“Our national parks are our national treasure,” says Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “My formative years were spent in Glacier National Park, and one of my biggest mentors was a park ranger and football coach. The lessons you learn from the land and the park rangers cannot be learned anywhere else on earth. As we head into the next 100 years of the Park Service, I’m looking at ways to improve infrastructure and visitor experience while conserving the precious lands for generations to come.”