August 25th is the National Park Service’s birthday and you get a present — free admission to any national park unit! There are also other free dates coming up — one on National Public Lands Day and then again Veterans Day weekend! Here’s the link to the fee free dates. Three great opportunities to explore your national parks for FREE! Look for special NPS events in your area on THIS calendar.
You may have read our previous post, National Parks – America’s Best Idea, or you may have seen our link to the national parks we’ve visited, or you may have just noticed that we have a lot of posts about national parks. It’s because we have a goal: to visit all of the 59 US national parks. We’re making progress, too. In 2013 we added four new parks to our total, bringing us to 42 parks visited out of 59!! Every park we’ve been to is spectacular, and we’re sure you won’t be disappointed if you visit one. And you can’t really go wrong with free entry!
The good news is that some of the ones left on our list are easily accessible, like Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. But we also have four backcountry parks in Alaska that are going to take a little more effort (and a little more cash!) to get to. But we’re going to do it!
Here’s the full list of parks we still have to visit:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Gates of the Arctic
Great Sand Dunes
Great Smoky Mountains
Pinnacles (the newest national park!)
We highly recommend setting travel goals for yourself and your family. Goals get you motivated and give you a focus. It’s fun to plan and make steps toward a goal as well, and goal setting and taking the steps to complete a goal are great lessons for kids.
We realize that setting a goal to visit all 59 national parks might be a little too much for some people, but you can start small. Maybe you could set a goal to visit one new place each year, or to try a new kind of vacation: maybe a home exchange or a camping trip. Or maybe your goal could be to accumulate enough frequent flier miles to take a trip to your dream destination in five years. Once you’ve got your goal, start taking the steps to make your goals a reality. If you’ve already got a goal, evaluate how well you’re doing on getting there! And please, share your goals in the comments section.
We hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy a week or a weekend in one of your national parks soon!
So do that mean you’ve been to American Samoa? I don’t see it on your list of parks to visit. I’m thinking of organizing a trip there, and haven’t seen a ton of info on the park.
Grace, We HAVE been to American Samoa. It was an amazing experience, very unlike any other national park experience, as you can imagine. We were there several years ago, so it’s likely somewhat different now, but we had a fantastic trip. The people in AS are so warm and welcoming, the islands are gorgeous, and the snorkeling is awesome, if a little more sporty than other places we’ve been. One of the highlights of our trip was an overnight excursion out to the tiny island of Ofu. It was there, laying on the airport landing strip watching the stars, that we saw the Southern Cross for the first time. Simply an incredible place. If you have the chance to visit there, we highly recommend it. Let us know if you have other questions, and thanks for checking out our blog! Enjoy your week or your weekend!
Thanks! Since you’ve been there, I want to take advantage of your expertise: (1) how long would you recommend spending there? (2) how are hard is it to get around the islands? (3) how did you get around – is a car rental an absolute requirement?
I would say that since it’s such a distance and since there’s a lot to explore, I personally wouldn’t go for less than a week. However, if it’s on the way to somewhere and you only have a few days, you could see a lot in 3 days. It was pretty easy to get around in a car when we were there – paved roads and such. There is bus service, but I am unsure how reliable it is or how often it runs. If possible I would suggest a rental car here. It may be possible to get a tour guide through the NPS or the local tourism department, I’m not sure, and then you might not need a rental car.
This park was not like any other US national park. It’s much more rugged, undeveloped and un-touristy. It IS a tropical island paradise, but it’s not like going to Hawaii or something in terms of what’s available for tourists. It appears that you cannot fly directly to Ofu any longer, but you can still get there. The snorkeling there was outstanding, and well worth it if you can figure it out.
If you have not looked at this page on the NPS site yet, you definitely should. It mentions a homestay option, and we would definitely recommend that. It’s what we did (although not through the parks service), and it made our experience vastly richer. The cultural aspect of Samoa is an important piece of visiting this particular park. I would also recommend a phone call to the park to ask them about these things. Our trip was a long time ago, and I don’t want to give you bad info, such as about bus transportation. It might be much better now. Worth asking someone in the know!
Super jealous of this amazing experience!!! It’s a gorgeous place with fascinating culture and super friendly people. Send us a photo!
Hi,Kelley Knutsen gave me your link as I too am a NP afficiando and have set my sites on visitng all the parks as well. I have 47 completed. I hope next year to do Redwood, Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic. Then I have 7 in Alaska and Samao…or so I thought. Did not know they added another one!!! Maybe I’ll try and squeeze Pinnacles into my travel plans for next year. Saving the most expensive (AL and AS) for last. So when people ask you (as I always get) what is your favorite? What do YOU say?
Welcome to the blog – it’s always great to meet like-minded travelers! 47 is impressive indeed. It’s a little maddening when they keep creating new ones, isn’t it? Great and maddening 🙂 We say US Virgin Islands National Park is our number one park, with no hesitation whatsoever. We’ve been there nine times! In the lower 48 there’s much more haggling. Lassen is definitely one of our top ones, though. Lucky you to see it next year. In Alaska, I think Glacier Bay was our fave followed by Wrangell St. Elias, but we still have four more to get there, too. Samoa is amazing and will be well worth the wait! What’s your fave?