National Park

Our National Parks are often referred to as our nation's "Crown Jewels" and jewels they really are! Each national park is a gem in its own right with something truly special to offer.

Use Great-Kids-Parks to find a national park worth exploring - and do just that with your family - go explore these treasures that were meant for all of us to enjoy.

National Parks History

Yellowstone was our nation's and the world's first national park, dedicated in 1872.

Way back then our country's citizens realized our beautiful lands should be protected. Yosemite was created as a state park in 1864 and later transferred to federal ownership. The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 to manage the National Park System.

Since that time our National Park System has grown to include 391 units, of which 58 are national parks. Because of provisions within legislation by Congress at their creation, each park truly is truly unique.

What Do National Parks Offer?

National Parks offer the experience of a lifetime.

Since each park truly is special, each one you take your kids to will look different (colors), smell different (sulfur geysers), sound different (roaring water falls) feel different (early morning frost) and yes, even taste different (think salty sea water).

There are more than 20 different classifications of National Park Units. A Wikipedia entry does an excellent job of describing them:

  • National Parks are vast areas of land protected – typically by a national government – from development
  • National Monuments are designed to preserve a smaller location with historical or natural significance
  • National Historic Sites protect simple, small locations that have a place in history (example: Ford's Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was shot)
  • National Battlefield, National Battlefield Parks, National Military Parks and National Battlefield Sites all protect what their name implies – locations where notable war battles took place
  • National Seashores and National Lakeshores preserve the nation's coastlines while National Rivers and Wild and Scenic Riverways protect streams
  • National Recreation Areas include vast areas of land and water set aside by acts of Congress for recreational use
  • The National Trails System is actually made up of two separate elements: National Scenic Trails provide hikers with fresh air and spectacular views, while National Historic Trails follow routes with historical significance
  • National Reserves and Preserves protect the land while allowing certain activities like hunting and fishing

Lifetime Experiences, Minimal Cost

With all of the wonderful amenities I have described, you'd think that a National Park costs the earth. It doesn't!!

Most parks charge admission fees starting at $3 and ranging up to $20 per week. There are other fees for camping and fishing licenses, of course, but where else can you and your family go to create memories that last a lifetime for so LITTLE?

In my opinion it would be sad not to expose a child to a National Park. The overall cost is so reasonable compared to a trip to Disneyland or a week in Hawaii or the Caribbean.

Yosemite waterfall

We try to take our kids to Yosemite National Park twice a year. We go in the spring for the water falls and in the fall for the quiet beauty.

Our stays are usually 3 days and 2 nights. That is more than long enough for me to spend "roughing it"! But each stay has so been worth it!

During our first trip with our son we put him in a backpack and hiked to Vernal Falls. To see him enjoy feeling the mist on his face from the water fall was priceless!

Our last trip there was cut short due to a rock slide, but our kids so enjoyed playing next to the Merced River, we lost track of time and found ourselves hiking back to the car at dusk.

I truly look forward to our trips to Yosemite with them each year. Every year I know they will remember and appreciate more of what it has to offer.

A World of Opportunities

Our National Parks have so much to offer. The battlefields will bring out the history buff in just about anyone and most definitely strike up a curiosity in any little boy.

Our national lakes, rivers and waterways can provide for a fun day of boating or a quiet day hoping for that "big" catch. Some of my best memories fishing with my grandfather involved not catching any fish, but just the time I was able to spend with him.

National Parks have treasures to be found at every corner, whether it is a stink bug or a deer sighting, a sand dune or the crash of an ocean wave. Just look through a child's eyes and you will see a world of possibilities open up before you.

Death Valley sand dune

Great-Kids-Parks will help you make that decision to go. We strive to provide you with kid friendly information about our country's "Crown Jewels".

If you have been to a National Park with your kids, please let us know what you think is useful information for other parents like you to know before they plan their trip.

Our National Parks are there for each and every one of us to enjoy: use Great-Kids-Parks to decide which one – or better yet - ones to go to today!