The National Park Service will turn 100 on August 25. Did you know that there are over 400 National Park areas encompassing over 84 million acres? Guess which five are in Illinois! In honor of the Centennial, all National Park entry fees are waived from August 25 through August 28, 2016. There are centennial activities across the country throughout the month of August.
My husband I share a great love of travel. We spent our honeymoon hiking in the Canadian Rockies. It was no surprise that when our kids were old enough, we began long road trips to visit National Parks. In addition to learning about nature and conservation, we learned how to relax and “get away from it all”.
Here are a few of our personal favorites:
Sleeping Bear Dunes is about 300 miles from Chicago in northwest Michigan. It consists of 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. The dune overlooks at the Sleeping Bear, Empire and Pyramid Point bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan and are breathtaking. The hiking trails wind through some of the most beautiful beech/maple hardwood forests in the country. The fall colors are absolutely stunning. Climb the dunes, visit Glen Arbor to shop or just relax on one of the many quiet beaches.
What can we say about Yellowstone? Yellowstone was the world's first National Park, established in 1872, preserved “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Sitting on top of a “super volcano”, the diversity within the park’s ecosystem is like no other place in the world. There are dozens of hiking trails that lead to hot springs, mud pots, geysers, valleys and lakes. The wildlife is varied and abundant – we saw bears, bison, moose, elk, wolves and pronghorn deer. There is a wide variety of ranger programs for all ages and interests.
Dry Tortugas National Park is a cluster of seven islands about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The park is the home of Fort Jefferson, beautiful blue waters, gorgeous coral reefs and marine life, and unusual birds that frequent the area. This park is only accessible by boat or seaplane. We thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling and exploring Fort Jefferson which was built in the mid-19th century. If we go back, we would love to camp overnight on Garden Key to experience the fabulous night sky.
To read before you go, check out these books about National Parks . You can also visit Find Your Park on the National Park Service Website . If you can't make it to a National Park this week, check out the other free days this year. Happy Exploring!