It’s National Park Week—nine days of celebrating the wonder and beauty of some of our greatest national treasures. Each year the National Parks Service partners with the National Park Foundation to help you discover, explore, and enjoy national parks all across the country. Many parks host a variety of special programs and events in addition to the national schedule of events.
To celebrate National Park Week we’ve compiled a guide to the week’s events to help you get the most out of our National Parks, this week and all year. Don’t miss the themes of each day!
Saturday: National Junior Ranger Day
Kids of all ages are invited to head to the nearest national park to earn their Junior Ranger Badge. Each park offers unique programs and educational opportunities to help kids “explore, learn, and protect”. The Junior Ranger program runs throughout the year but participants can earn special buttons on National Junior Ranger Day.
Sunday: Military and Veterans’ Recognition Day
Did you know the US Cavalry served as the first park rangers? They pulled double duty starting in 1872 when Yellowstone was established as the first national park. The National Park Service was established in 1916, relieving the US Cavalry of its extra duties.
Today, dozens of national parks commemorate and memorialize military battles and achievements across the country. Join in the celebration and recognition of our military (active duty and veterans) by participating in special events and educational opportunities unique to each park.
Monday: Earth Day
Whether you live near the wild beauty of the Everglades or travel to see the mighty bison at Wind Cave, our national parks serve to protect and preserve the natural wonders of this land. To celebrate Earth Day many national parks host educational events and opportunities to learn and volunteer. Environmental projects like planting native plant species, inventorying plants and wildlife, and cleanups are a great way to explore and protect our parks while participating in preservation efforts.
Tuesday: Transportation Tuesday
Our national parks tell the story of transportation in America and are inextricably linked to transportation. In the early 20thcentury railroad companies promoted the national parks to entice visitors to travel west. On the east coast, the Blue Ridge Parkway meanders 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina, allowing motorists to enjoy beautiful wildlife and sweeping mountaintop views.
Transportation Tuesday is a celebration of the link between all forms of transportation and our national parks. Many of the national parks have implemented creative and innovative transportation systems to allow millions of visitors to enjoy the parks while protecting the park’s natural wonders.
Wednesday: Wild Wednesday
Celebrate National Park Week’s “Wild Wednesday” by finding a way to observe and enjoy the wildlife that thrives in our national parks. Enjoy a trail that meanders through fields of wildflowers now in bloom or catch up with a local birdwatching group. Many national parks actively protect endangered animals like wolves and bison. Keep your eyes peeled for all kinds of furry, feathered, and swimming wildlife!
If you have young children, download the free Wilderness Explorer Junior Ranger book full of activities and resources. Turn in your completed activities book at the ranger station to receive an official Junior Ranger badge!
Thursday: Throwback Thursday
This is a day to memorialize the history preserved in our national parks and celebrate the ongoing efforts of the National Park Service to preserve and protect our natural and cultural treasures.
Join in the #ThrowbackThursday celebrations by visiting a national park you or your family visited many years ago. Bring a photo of the first time you visited that park and take a “then and now” photo. Perhaps even try to recreate the photo!
Spend time learning about the culture and history preserved in some of our National Park treasures. Did you know there are eight national parks devoted to women in history? There are many national parks and monuments that protect and honor Native American heritage and others dedicated to the African American legacy.
Take a little time this Throwback Thursday to learn a little about the history of your own community, the national parks closest to you, or a park you’ve never learned about. You might not even need to leave your own neighborhood to find the closest National Historic Landmark.
Friday: Friendship Friday
Did you know that more than 200 philanthropic organizations partner with national parks to host projects and programs? Our national parks would not be as rich as they are without these organizations. These philanthropic partners mobilize volunteers and interns, host special programs and events, maintain visitor facilities, raise funds to preserve and protect lands, and so much more.
Friendship Friday is a day to honor and thank the philanthropic organizations that help make our national parks spectacular. One way to celebrate Friendship Friday is to get involved in one of these organizations. They are always looking for eager volunteers. There is a directory of philanthropies or you can look up your favorite national park to identify any partnering organizations.
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of our national parks and the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. The National Park Foundation raises money to fund conservation efforts and protect the more than 84 million acres of national parks.
Saturday: BARK Ranger Day
We can’t leave our furry friends out of the National Parks Week festivities! Parks across the country will host activities and events for you and your dog to learn about the benefits and rules of visiting the National Parks together. Complete one of the educational experiences and your dog may be sworn in as a “BARK Ranger”, complete with special collar tag!
BARK is a part of the Healthy People Healthy Parks Initiative to help people and their pets have a safe and fun experience anytime they visit a park. BARK stands for:
- Bag your pet’s waste
- Always wear a leash
- Respect wildlife
- Know where you can go
Learn more about the BARK Ranger program and the volunteer and ambassador opportunities. Many are looking for dogs to volunteer their time and wagging tails to help keep our national parks great.
Sunday: Park Rx Day
There are countless health benefits to being outdoors! Park Rx Day is dedicated to highlighting the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of being outdoors. The ParkRx Initiative is designed to collaborate with healthcare providers and community partners to improve human health.
Established in 2013, the ParkRx movement hosts a wide range of events, activities, and educational opportunities that encourage people to spend more time in nature to improve their overall well-being. There are a growing number of medical professionals “prescribing” time in nature and the National ParkRx Day encourages everyone to consider regular visits to parks and public lands as a vital part of overall health. You can even download a toolkit to host ParkRx Day events and celebrations near you!
Now that you have everything you need to participate in National Parks Week, what is your favorite park to visit and why? Or, if you don’t yet have a favorite, what park would you like to visit next?