Celebrating National Park Week

Published 5:26 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

It’s that time of year again: It’s National Park Week! National Park Week is a celebration of our national parks, and it’s great time to get outdoors and explore. This year, National Park Week is April 15-23.

There are 417 areas in the National Parks Service, according to the National Parks Service website nps.gov. “These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House,” according to the NPS.

If you are like me, when you hear national parks you think of Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. However, if you don’t have time to take a long road trip to celebrate National Park Week, don’t worry — we have a national park pretty close by. Mammoth Cave National Park is located about two hours southwest of Danville. It’s a really unique experience because Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system. I’ve been to Mammoth Cave a couple of times, and each time was wonderful and lots of fun. I have camped there and their facilities were clean and well-maintained. I’ve also been on a couple of different cave tours there and both were great. I did the Mammoth Cave Discovery Tour and learned a lot. I’d love to go back again and do the Frozen Niagara Tour. The great thing about Mammoth Cave is that they offer a variety of tours with different lengths and difficulties.

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Just to make National Park Week even more awesome, you can get in free on April 22 and 23 to any national park that usually charges admission. This makes it even easier to go out to a national park, where you can explore and enjoy the beauty of nature. An added reason to go is that April 22 is Earth Day, so you can celebrate that important holiday by going to a national park, and it won’t cost you anything for admission.

Besides our national park, Kentucky has other nationally managed natural areas:

• Abraham Lincoln Birthplace (National historical park);

• Big South Fork (National river and recreation area);

• Cumberland Gap (National historical park);

• Fort Donelson (National battlefield); and

• Trail Of Tears (National historic trail).

If you are unable to go during the free admission days on April 22 and 23, NPS offers free admission a few more times this year, including:

• August 25 — National Park Service birthday

• September 30 — National Public Lands Day

• Nov. 11-12 — Veterans Day weekend

Right now, our national parks need our support more than ever. They just celebrated their 100th birthday last summer, and I would love to have them around for at least another 100 years. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also get a national parks passport and try to see how many different national parks you can check off your list.