A National Park Adventure

Jessica Dana, travel advisor, One Swell Travel

LIVING IN CACHE VALLEY, we are fortunate to have so many outdoor adventures to choose from right in our backyard. But did you know that within a 10-hour drive from Logan there are more than 15 National Parks? Better yet, the National Park Service has an amazing program called, Every Kid Outdoors. This program allows every fourth-grade child to obtain a free National Park annual pass. The pass starts in September and is good through August 31 of the following year. It is good for the entire family joining the fourth-grade pass holder in the park in the same car (get yours at everykidoutdoors.gov/index.htm).

The National Park Service knew what they were doing when they chose fourth graders for the pass because at this age, children are full of wonder and curiosity and are usually open-minded to new experiences. Connecting with nature at any age is great, but it is especially magical at this age. Two of my children are in fourth grade this year, so this is our family’s time to take advantage of this amazing program.

For our family of full-time homeschoolers, fall-time usually means travel-time. This year our travel plans look a little different than usual. Instead of faraway destinations, we are setting out to explore some of the amazing places within a 10-hour drive.

Visiting new places is always a fun and exciting experience, but learning about the destinations before the trip can make it even more memorable. As a homeschool mom, or parent in general, we are always looking for ways to bring learning to life for our kids. Visiting national parks after learning about them is a perfect way to be able to do that. It’s one thing to read about something in a book, and a whole different thing to be able to go and see it in real life. Why not include the kids in the planning fun too?

This year as part of our United States history and geography studies, I told my kids that they could pick any national park within a 10-hour drive from where we live. We could learn about its history and the best things to do and see there, and then they could help plan a trip to go see it. After looking at a map of national parks, we began to realize just how many national parks and monuments actually are within a 10-hour drive. With even further discovery, we realized how we had seriously overlooked so many amazing places to visit in our own country. Now our list of national parks to visit has quickly grown to us wanting to see every single one of them!

Maybe you don’t have a fourth-grader this year? The National Park Service has many options to get every family into a park and the beautiful outdoors. They have an affordable annual pass for families, a discounted senior pass, and even free passes for military and people with disabilities. Visit their website nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm to check out all of the options and choose which one is right for you. You can also browse the different parks and find information for planning your next adventure.

Whether it’s snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas off of the coast of Florida or kayaking in the glacier lakes in Montana, get outside and enjoy a national park.