by Breanna Draxler

Pull out your hiking boots and put on your backpack. It’s National Parks Week!

From April 22 to 29, you can visit any national park in the U.S. for free! You’ve got 397 parks across the country to choose from, so what’ll it be?


Photo Credit: Ben Forbes, Natural Habitat Adventures

How about watching wildlife in the world’s first national park? Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, and has since acted as a prototype for conservation efforts around the globe. The park is home to two threatened species, the Canada lynx and the grizzly bear, as well as one endangered species, the gray wolf.

My family hopped in the maroon mini van and headed west to Yellowstone one summer when I was in elementary school. We saw bears and birds, but my childhood self was most impressed by the bison. The size and proximity of these shaggy beasts made the 1,069-mile drive from Wisconsin worth every bit of carsickness.

Glacier National Park

Photo credit: Natural Habitat Adventures

Or perhaps you’d prefer to celebrate National Parks Week with a hiking adventure.  Glacier National Park covers an area of one million acres and is considered America’s most scenic national park. I would have to agree, especially for winter-lovers. I found that out the hard way  last July when I showed up to the park to hike in shorts and sandals. My toes quickly went numb as I hiked along the snow-covered trail.

Snow depth has been above average this year, too. Just a few weeks ago the snow was still almost 14 feet deep on Flattop Mountain. Crews began plowing the infamous Going to the Sun Road at the beginning of April, but much of it is still snow-covered and inaccessible to cars. So strap on your snowshoes or skis and experience some of the 740 miles of trails in Glacier National Park on foot.

If you’re not able to visit a National Park this week, fear not! You can always join Natural Habitat Adventures for one of their North America trips. Their Yellowstone repertoire includes Wolf Quests, Wildlife Safaris, and Photography Expeditions.  They also offer adventures in scenic Glacier National Park among others.