Lonely Planet Writer

How to get the most out of marking National Park Week and Earth Day in the US

If your goal for 2018 is to get outside more, there’s no better way to mark the coming of spring than celebrating National Park Week and Earth Day in the US.

The famous Delicate Arch in Utah, USA. Image by Daniel Osterkamp/Getty Images

With 417 national parks around the country, a new place to explore is within reach for most travellers. There’s also great news for those on a budget – 21 April is the first day of the week-long celebrations and comes with free entry to all of the parks. While hundreds of parks are free year-round, certain spots do charge entry fees, like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, which are used for protecting the natural environment and the infrastructure that allows visitors to explore.

Joshua Tree National Park is also a dark sky park. Image by ©West Coast Scapes/Shutterstock

National Park Week runs 21 through 29 April and this year is the theme is “Park Stars” – celebrating everything from starry skies to superstar volunteers. “National parks are some of the best places to see stars in the world,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith said in a statement. “Some illuminate the night sky and others are unique features such as panoramic vistas, otherworldly geological formations, historic artefacts and homes, and majestic wildlife. During National Park Week, enjoy a star party, junior ranger program, ranger hike, or other activity that enlightens the senses.”

From bird-watching to star-gazing, there are events being held in parks around the country, and those interested can see a calendar of events here. With this year’s theme, city-dwellers who miss out on a great view of the stars can travel to national parks to admire the night sky with less light pollution. In fact, some parks, like Joshua Tree National Park, are even designated dark sky parks.

If you’re looking to be a part of one of 2018’s best travel experiences, anyone in California can visit Lonely Planet’s top US travel destination for this year, California’s Redwood Coast. Explore Redwood National Park and see exactly what made the region lead the list.

Rafting tours down the Snake River near Grand Tenton Mountains. Image by ©Mark Read/Lonely Planet

Earth Month may run for the entire month of April, but Earth Day will be celebrated on 22 April. The internationally-celebrated day is designed to honor the Earth and promote peace – and is a great chance for travellers to start thinking how to make their adventures sustainable. If you want to start planning a National Park Week adventure – or get a head start on a year’s worth of national park visits – check out all of Lonely Planet’s resources that can make those dreams a reality.