National Park Week Kicks Off With Themes, Day of Free Admission
WASHINGTON — National Park Week kicks off on April 16 with a day of free admission to any of America’s 423 National Park Service sites and other programs in communities across the country. The week continues with a variety of special programs, events, and even digital experiences through April 24 under the theme for 2022, “sPARK Connections.”
Established in 1991 in honor of the National Park Service’s 75th anniversary, National Park Week celebrates America’s spaces to enjoy the outdoors and explore off the beaten path.
“Since Yellowstone National Park was established 150 years ago, over 400 extraordinary places have been added to the National Park System,” Chuck Sams, National Park Service director said in a release.
“Throughout the country, these sites are sources of inspiration, recreation, and education — each one preserving and sharing a part of our national story. I hope National Park Week provides a spark to visit a nearby national park and make some memories.”
While there are just 61 federally protected properties that hold the title of “national park,” the National Park Service actually manages 20 different types of national park properties including national battlefields, historic sites, national lakeshores, national scenic trails and more.
But despite the fact that there is at least one national park site in every state, National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth said that, in 2021, most park visits occurred in just 25 parks.
According to NPS data, the most visited park site in 2021 was the Blue Ridge Parkway, with 15.9 million visitors, but the most visited national park in the U.S. remains the Great Smoky Mountains, hugely popular due to its beautiful and dramatic landscapes and variety of hiking opportunities.
National Park Week is an opportunity to explore more, as every park has remarkable features and lesser-known gems.
Whether camping in Shenandoah, hiking in Isle Royale, visiting the old-growth forest in Congaree, stargazing in the Great Basin, doing nature photography the quiet wilderness of the North Cascades, or even spelunking in Carlsbad Caverns, there are close-to-home opportunities to engage the senses or travel experiences to engage your desire for adventure.
And every day of National Park Week has a theme to encourage deeper connections.
- April 16, “sPark Discovery” suggests everyone find something new.
- April 17, “sPark Creativity” asks visitors to seek out their park muse for creative artistic expression.
- April 18, “sPark Collaboration” is about meeting partners to expand NPS’s reach and connecting people to parks.
- April 19, “sPark Innovation” incorporates the latest technology to support conservation and preservation efforts.
- April 20, “sPark Opportunities” invites guests to seek employment opportunities available in the National Park Service and with partner organizations.
- April 21, “sPark Preservation” reminds visitors about the natural and cultural heritage the parks were created to protect.
- April 22, “sPark Action” — which also happens to be Earth Day — looks at the health of the environment and how humans impact its wellbeing.
- April 23, “sPark Curiosity” is about fascinating stories and unique landscapes.
- April 24, is “sPark Memories” is inviting guests to share their memories and traditions.
“National Park Week is a great time to explore a lesser-known site,” Shafroth said. “This National Park Week, try something new. There is so much beauty and cultural heritage to experience in your own backyard.”
Of the 423 National Park Service sites, only 116 usually charge admission, with fees varying widely, but there are five days in 2022 when entrance fees are waived. One is the first day of National Park Week. The remaining free opportunities in 2022 are Aug. 4, the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act; Sept. 24, National Public Lands Day; and Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Admission was also free on Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
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