The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has been celebrating its 100th anniversary with a series of centennial events.  As part of the celebration all national parks (including monuments and memorials) will be offering free entrance from August 25 to August 28, 2016. That’s a Thursday through Sunday.  The perfect time for a quick trip before summer ends and schools get started in earnest.

Its a great opportunity to visit an old favorite or explore a location you have never experienced.  The NPS has an excellent web site with a map that shows all NPS locations by state or region.  Each location has a basic description with links to directions, hours, and a link to more information abut the location.   Its a excellent tool for exploring the national park system.

Shorebird migration lights up in August.  If you are a shorebird fan, and who isn’t, a trip to seaside location might be a good choice.  Many of the individual national park web sites have a checklist of the birds, or failing that, a quick Google search will often find a list of birds in the area.

Wood Storks on Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Wood Storks on Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Getting there is half the fun
The trip to a distant national park does not have to be boring.

Pokemon Go is all the rage these days.  I do not play it but understand it can be fun on a trip.

An app I do use is called RoadsideAmerica.  The app finds nearby points of interest and provides a distance to the point of interest and ratings based on reports of other visitors to the site.  You will not want to go far off your destination trail to see many of the locations but that is where the distance information comes in handy.

For example, right now I am:

– 196 miles away from seeing Barbadilla, the Texas giant armadillo. Three stars out of five.  Rated worth a detour, and its free.

– 163 miles away from a Museum dedicated to the creator of Conan the Barbarian 2 stars out of 5. Rated as worth a stop.

Birding trails
Many states have now developed birding trails. These trails, covering expanses of roadway that often across many miles, offer birders and nature lovers opportunities to visit different habitats and key birding hot spots. Maps are available for each trail and show the best birding locations along the trail. Over 30 states now have birding trails.

Following a birding trail on the way to a national park would be great approach.

The American Birding Association provides an excellent list of birding trails by state.

Visiting a national park and having fun along the way, what could be better than that?

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