America’s National Parks: 14 Resources for a Most Excellent Adventure

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park

“The beauty and charm of the wilderness are his for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.” Theodore Roosevelt

When I was growing up in Colorado our family would routinely load up the station wagon and head off to a National Park. We explored Glacier, Arches, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Mesa Verde, Dinosaur, Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Park (our ‘neighborhood’ park). As a college graduation gift my mom took me to Denali. Several years later friends and I headed off to Volcano National Park for a reunion. This past year we loaded up the car for a multisport visit to Acadia.

Our national parks cover over 80 million acres and offer the perfect blend of inspiration and perspiration. There are 12,250 miles of unpaved trails, 8,500 miles of roads and 26,830 campsites. My parents shared their love of  spacious skies and purple mountains majesty and now when I visit national parks I often encounter smells and sounds that bring back fond childhood memories of family outings.

“Life is a great adventure…accept it in such a spirit.”  Theodore Roosevelt

In celebration of America’s National Parks: America’s Best Idea, here are 14 great national park resources to help you plan a most excellent outdoor adventure with your family and friends.

  1. National Park Service (NPS) Main Website The perfect place to get acquainted with the parks.
  2. Find a National Park Search by name, location, activity (biking, boating, climbing, swimming) and topic (caves, civil war, fossils, glaciers, volcanoes).
  3. Park Reservations Make reservations for cabins, tents and ranger-guided tours as well as for various permits. Federal and private campsite reservations can also be made via ReserveAmerica.
  4. Fuel Cost Calculator Planning to load up the family car and take a road trip to a National Park? Calculate the estimated fuel cost of your trip, courtesy of AAA.
  5. National Parks Weather Search a national park, state park, or recreation area by name or search by location.  Visit a specific national park website or the National Weather Service to get local weather updates and travel advisories (road closures due to blizzards or lava flows).
  6. NPS Interactive Map Center (IMC) Base maps and park brochure maps for geographic reference and navigation to and within parks.   Maps are also available from the National Park Service Maps site.
  7. National Parks Geology 3D and photographic tours that feature park geology and natural history from the U.S. Geological Survey.
  8. National Parks Service Jobs Permanent, temporary and seasonal positions.
  9. NPS Volunteer Opportunities Search for positions throughout the National Parks (use ‘National Park’ for the keywords).
  10. Junior Ranger Program Complete a series of activities during a park visit, share answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger badge and certificate. Or become a Web Ranger through the online program for kids of all ages.
  11. ‘Share the Experience’ Photo Contest Official federal recreation lands photo contest. For inspiration, view the NPS historic photo collection.
  12. News and Commentary A multimedia blend of news, feature content, debate, and discussion tied to America’s national parks.
  13. Tips for Visiting National Parks Information from the Sierra Club on fees, lodging, gear, activities and avoiding crowds.
  14. National Parks by the Numbers NPS stats, workbooks to estimate the economic impact of NPS visitor spending, and acreage reports. Also see NPS Quick Facts.

“It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one’s sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Other Resources

Dad fishing near Rocky Mountain National Park

Dad fishing near Rocky Mountain National Park

Theodore Roosevelt quotes from the NPS
National Parks Foundation
On Twitter:
National Parks News @NPCA
U.S. Forest Service @forestservice
National Park Foundation @GoParks