From redwoods to canyonlands, national parks offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in some of our country’s most unique landscapes. The National Park Service, or NPS, protects land with ecological, geological, and cultural significance for adventurers and future generations to enjoy.
If you’re a fan of NPS’ work, you’ll be excited to hear about the presidentially-proclaimed National Park Week. This nine-day celebration is hosted by the National Park Foundation and includes in-person events at parks around the U.S. as well as ways to connect digitally. This year’s theme is “sPark Connections,” with different interpretations of the theme on each day. Read on for everything you need to know about the 2022 National Park Week, then hop into your van and chart a course for your favorite–or potential new favorite–national park.
When is National Park Week?
This year, National Park Week is on April 16th-24th. Rather than taking place over seven days as the name suggests, the celebration stretches across nine days and includes two weekends. With this much time, you can turn National Park Week into a road trip with multiple destinations.
Where is National Park Week happening and how can I take part?
National Park Week is held at national parks across the country. With locations in every state, you’re never too far from an NPS site. Each national park celebrates a little differently, so check out the specific events at any parks you’re considering visiting on the National Park Service calendar or browse all of the events to help you decide which park to visit.
Of course, there are plenty of walks, hikes, and tours available at national parks, but you may be surprised by the breadth of activities on offer. Enjoy a free outdoor jazz concert at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Louisiana, volunteer for the Fort Foote Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup in Maryland, or watch a tortilla-making demonstration at Tumacácori National Historical Park in Arizona.
You can also connect to events and resources over the internet. Several national parks are offering virtual tours and short talks on topics including “Plan Like a Park Ranger” and “Life Between the Tides.” Get little ones involved even if you can’t make it to a park with the virtual junior ranger program. Plus, NPS is encouraging fans to engage on social media with designated hashtags for each of the days.
Whether you want to recharge in a quiet forest, go on a guided tour to learn about historical sites, give back by volunteering, or reminisce on past travels by creating a cool reel on Instagram, there are plenty of ways to take part in National Park Week.
Which national park(s) should I visit?
With 63 national parks across the U.S., it can be hard to decide where to go. You can venture to your closest national park or travel further to visit the park of your dreams. You can seek out a hidden gem like Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio or a popular park like Yellowstone. If you don’t already have a destination in mind, take NPS’ handy quiz to narrow down the options.
What are the daily themes of National Park Week?
Themed days are a National Park Week tradition for good reason. The themes draw attention to various facets of national parks and help visitors plan full, rich itineraries.
April 16th- sPark Discovery (Fee Free Day)
Start National Park Week right with a free visit to a spectacular park of your choice. Many national parks waive their entrance fees on this day; visitors can save up to $35. Curious whether the site you are interested in will be free? Check out NPS’ list of participating parks.
April 17th- sPark Creativity
Art and nature go hand in hand. Seek out inspiration in the form of jaw-dropping landscapes to paint, photograph, or write about. There are also ample opportunities to learn about creatives throughout the centuries who have found their muse in the parks. At Grand Canyon National Park, check out an exhibit on the Kolb Brothers, a pair of entrepreneurs and photographers who helped make the canyon into the cultural icon it is today. At Yosemite National Park, sign up for a class to learn about legendary photographer Ansel Adams’ techniques and put them to use in capturing the park’s majestic vistas.
April 18th- sPark Collaboration
On this day, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation thank their partners. From the early philanthropists who helped create many parks and museums to regular Americans today who support the NPS with their taxes, every collaboration counts. Mark the day by learning more about National Park Service partnerships or checking out how you can get involved.
April 19th- sPark Innovation
NPS is constantly looking toward the future when it comes to technology. The organization supports innovative projects to better protect not only natural landscapes but also important historical buildings, sites, and artifacts. They also strive to engage the public with new visitor experiences and plenty of free digital programs. One shining example? You can watch wildlife at many national parks through live webcams.
April 20th- sPark Opportunities
Have you ever thought about working for the National Park Service? This day, also known as Workforce Wednesday, might be a good time to consider it. Van life gives you the freedom to move to any national park with all the comforts of your traveling home. Imagine living immersed in nature and working as a park ranger. Or explore a multitude of other positions including visual information specialist, biologist, wildland firefighter, or museum technician.
April 21st- sPark Preservation
There are 63 official national parks, but the NPS manages a whopping 423 sites including national historical parks, national recreation areas, national seashores, and national monuments. That’s a lot of preservation. If you’re curious to find out how the National Park Foundation makes this possible, visit their Programs that Protect page.
April 22nd- sPark Action
The sPark Action day coincides with Earth Day and encourages nature lovers to advocate for the environment. NPS does its part by conserving vital ecosystems and landscapes. If you want to support their work, consider donating or volunteering. To find volunteer events, visit the searchable calendar and apply the volunteer filter under “event type.” There, you’ll find options like highway and beach cleanups.
April 23rd- sPark Curiosity
From fascinating people and historical events to rare plants and animals, every national park has a story to tell. If you plan on visiting an NPS site for National Park Week, remember to seek out all the information available through visitor’s centers, interpretive signs, and talks. These resources mean you can not only be refreshed by time spent in awe-inspiring nature, but also gain a newfound appreciation for the vibrant history of these places.
April 24th- sPark Memories
Speaking of history, most van lifers have had some memorable past experiences at national parks. You’ll never forget the feeling of seeing an iconic landscape in person for the first time. What about that special little national park you stumbled on during a cross-country road trip? On the last day of National Park Week, fans of the parks are encouraged to celebrate by sharing their favorite memories. Use #sParkMemories on your content, browse through other posts, and connect with like-minded people.
What do I need to know about visiting national parks with a van?
Most national parks in the continental U.S. are welcoming to van lifers, with good roads and van-friendly campgrounds ranging from primitive lots to those with full hookups. Campsites can fill up quickly, though, so be sure to reserve yours ahead of time. If you’re more of a go-with-the-flow traveler, you can also often find van camping right outside of national parks.
However you choose to celebrate, we at Rec Van wish you a happy and adventure-filled National Park Week. For related articles, check out “Adventure Guide: Glacier National Park,” “Adventure Guide: Rocky Mountain National Park,” and “Man’s Best Friend Can Venture to These National Parks.” For the van to take you there, visit Rec Van.