Updated on July 12th, 2018
I received compensation for this post, all ideas and opinions are my own.
Has your family taken the time to visit a federal land or waterway? Everykidinapark.gov wants to make sure that you do! Starting September 1, 2015, every U.S. fourth grader can use a personalized pass to gain unlimited, fee-free access for themselves and three accompanying adults to most federal day-use land and water sites for a full year!
This program is open to every U.S. fourth grader, including home-schooled and free-choice learners. If you are a fourth grader and would like to participate just visit everykidinapark.gov, click on the “Get Your Pass” section, and follow the instructions for downloading a personalized voucher for print and use at federal lands and waters locations. Trip planning tools can be found at recreation.gov.
When I was in high school we had a foreign exchange student come to our home from Germany. We talked about many things while he lived with us, but one conversation that really stood out to me was reasons why his family loved to vacation to the United States.
We talked about the size difference in our countries, Germany is about the size of the state of Utah, and how because of its size, the U.S. has so many different types of scenery to appreciate. That experience really gave me a chance to realize how lucky I am to live in a place where beauty and recreation is available in such abundance.
Since that day, I have had the opportunity to visit several federal lands. Open public lands are an important part of American heritage and history. I hope to share that with my children as they learn and grow. Here are five of my favorite National Parks, just one type of federal land, that you might want to bump to the top of your must visit list.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park was the very first of the National Parks. It is located mostly in Wyoming but reaches into Montana and Idaho as well. It is known for its wildlife as well as its many geothermal, and sometimes smelly, features. You have probably heard of Old Faithful, its famous cone geyser that erupts every 35-120 minutes. Give yourself a few days to really take in all the different areas this large park has to offer, you will be astounded by its beauty.
Photo Credit Nps.gov
Redwood National Park
I remember being amazed by my trip to Redwood National Park. The Coast Redwood, the tallest tree on earth, is preserved here on thousands of acres of land. Usually living around 500 years and growing to heights of 250 ft, but known to live up to 2,000 years and reach up to 350 ft, the redwood trees are something you just have to see in your lifetime. They are absolutely breathtaking.
Arches National Park
Located in Southern Utah, Arches National Park came by its name naturally. The Park features more than 2,000 natural stone arches. Its colors and textures will energize you as you hike through the beauty the park has to offer. Its most notable arch, Delicate Arch is a 65-foot tall freestanding natural arch, and has become a symbol for the state of Utah. It is even featured on their license plates! Whether you have a few hours passing through or plan on camping for a few days, Arches will paint a beautiful canvas for your adventure.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Though a little off the beaten path and not even part of the continental U.S., Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska is a must see destination. Home to the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States, and named for its fjords carved by moving glaciers, the park is best enjoyed by boat. From the boat you can enjoy an amazing variation of arctic wildlife like orca and humpback whales, sea otters, sea lions, porpoises, bears by the coast, and a large array of birds. Seeing a glacier in real life was a humbling experience as you hear them groan and crack as they move and change. Our trip to this National Park was truly incredible.
Growing up in Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park is one I have visited many times. Obviously home to the Grand Canyon, widely considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, this park is the perfect place to reflect on the beautiful world we live in. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep. You can enjoy it from above or, if you are physically up for the challenge, hike to the bottom and see it from within. Either way it is a visual treat.
National Parks are a part of federal lands and waters, but there are a myriad of wildlife refuges, forests, reservoirs, and sanctuaries throughout the nation that also fall into this broad category that offer learning and recreational opportunities.
Some of these include:
- Kings Range National Conservation Area in California
- Apalachicola National Forest in Florida
- Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Michigan
- Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts
- Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.
Here in Alaska, I am lucky enough to live right on the edge of Chugach National Forest. This beautiful area we call home is so fun to explore with my kids. Do you have federal lands and waters near your home?