Do you know the name of the National Park or National Park Service property closest to you? Have you ever been there? I am ashamed to say that my answers to those questions were “I don’t know” and then, “kind of.” When I first read about National Park Week was approaching, I wanted to find out more about the parks closest to me. We have all heard of the most popular ones like Yellowstone, The Grand Canyon, or Yosemite. For most people in our area those are once in a lifetime trips–bucket list items that we plan for years. I knew, though, that there had to be parks closer.
I logged onto the National Park Service’s website to learn more about National Park Week and find the parks that are closest and most accessible to me. It turns out that their website is an awesome resource that’s full of in-depth information. The website even has an entire section dedicated to kids with special trip planning information, games, as well as kid’s Webrangers and Junior Rangers programs. National Park Week 2014 runs April 19th-27th, and includes special Earth Day events at National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites. The Park Service is commemorating National Park Week with free admission at many locations, as well.
Illinois is home to one National Park, 1,782 National Register of Historic Places, two National Heritage Areas, 18 National Natural Landmarks, 82 National Historic Landmarks, and one World Heritage Site. Perhaps the most well known National Park Service property in Illinois is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. This isn’t what most of us think of when we imagine a National Park. Our Park Service preserves and maintains many different types of properties, not just pristine expanses of land like Yellowstone. If you’re looking for a bit wilderness here , Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Ice Age National Scenic Trail would be great places to visit. Although not in Illinois, these parks are close to Lake County and would make a great weekend trip for a family. We have briefly visited the Ice Age Trail a few times while camping at Devil’s Lake State Park. The entire area is beautiful year-round. The Ice Age Trail is very flat in this area as well, making it ideal for little hikers. This summer when we go back to the area, we plan to leave the state park and actually hike the Ice Age Trail. There are access points farther south east on the 1,200 mile trail that are closer to Lake County, too.
Take a moment to check out the National Park Service website. Even if you can’t visit a park any time soon, consider planning a trip in the future. Since 1916, our National Park Service has worked to preserve these places, and make them accessible to us. Often referred to as “America’s Best Idea,” these places really do belong to us. They have so much to offer people of all ages, especially little ones. Since travel may not be an an option for everyone, here are other ways to celebrate and support our great parks for National Park Week.
- Disneynature’s new film Bears premiere’s on April 18th, and Disney is making a donation to The National Park Service in honor of Earth Day for every movie ticket sold April 18th-24th
- You can volunteer at many of the places The National Park Service operates
- Spend some time with your family on the kid’s section of nps.org
- Consider visiting some of the other great parks and preserves in our area; check out Lake County Forest Preserves and Illinois State Parks for more info
Have you visited a National Park? Tell us which one in the comments!