Even though summer has ended and kids are back in school, family fun and outdoor recreation can continue into the fall when you and your family visit any of America's 401 national parks. Not only can national parks provide exercise and play to reduce the stress of military mobile life, they can also nurture an appreciation for America's history and natural beauty. The parks offer endless opportunities to camp, hike, bike, swim, climb, explore and enjoy all that nature has to offer.
Endless opportunities for fall fun
The National Park System covers more than 84 million acres across all states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 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. The activities for the fall season vary from park to park; however, with these descriptions of what's happening at parks in across the country, you will have an idea of what's available for you and your family.
Cedar Breaks National Monument - Utah
Southern Utah is ablaze with brilliant colors from mid-September through October - golden yellows, sunny oranges and fiery reds blanket the mountains along the monument's six-mile, scenic drive. Cedar Breaks was rated by USA Today as "one of the top ten places to experience fall colors" in the United States. Your family may enjoy hiking along the Alpine Pond Nature Trail through a spruce-fir-aspen forest and past ancient deposits of volcanic materials. Halfway through the loop is the Alpine Pond, a natural, spring-fed pond offering a quiet location to enjoy and relax. Join a park ranger to learn more about Cedar Breaks National Monument's geology, animals, plants, human history and more.
Point Reyes National Seashore - California
Visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse and discover its history and function. Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years. The national seashore is also home to the San Andreas Fault. Daily ranger program topics may include earthquakes and plate tectonics, the Coast Miwok, Sir Francis Drake and the U.S. Lifesaving Service.
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Park - Texas
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park preserves the site of this notable battle and provides an understanding of the causes, events and consequences of the U.S.-Mexican War. Your family can participate in the Memorial Illumination, held annually in November at the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield, where the lighting of more than 8,000 candles takes place to honor the U.S. and Mexican veterans of the battles near the Rio Grande in 1846.
DeSoto National Memorial - Florida
The De Soto Visitor Center has a great hands-on exhibit for young and old alike. This exhibit allows you to try on pieces of armor and imagine marching in De Soto's army. Conquistadors wore up to 80 pounds of armor and often trekked 12 miles per day. Your family can enjoy a ranger-led kayak trip to explore the waters that Native Americans and Spanish conquistadores traveled hundreds of years ago.
Arcadia National Park - Maine
EarthCache Program at Arcadia National Park, a park service-sponsored recreational activity, leads you to some of the park's significant geological resources. With a set of clues from the website and some hidden along the way, use a GPS unit to guide you to a series of sites in the park. Through early October, park rangers at Acadia National Park offer a variety of programs to suit every interest and activity level. Programs include walks, talks, hikes, narrated boat cruises, bike rides and more.
Finding a park
The park information above is just a miniature overview of what our national parks have to offer during the fall. To locate a park near your installation for a day visit, or to find a park for a long weekend, visit the National Park Service and search by park name, location, activity or topic. The website offers information on each park, including its history, culture, nature and science, as well as helpful tips about how to plan your trip.
Your installation Morale, Welfare and Recreation has just about everything that you need to make your day trip or extended visit to the national park a success. Rent camping and fishing gear from MWR, including:
- Sleeping bags
- Coleman stoves and lanterns
- Propane heaters
- Barbecue grills
- Ice chests
- Recreational vehicles
- Fishing poles
To play it safe, use common sense when visiting our national parks, and always make it a priority to read and strictly follow all national park rules, warnings and signs, even when a particular place or activity seems or looks safe. Remember, depending on where you are and what you're doing, conditions can change quickly from safe to hazardous to life threatening. You'll find safety tips for each park on the NPS website. Look for "Plan Your Visit," then "Things To Know Before You Come."
Before you go
Pages on the individual national parks offer directions and information on operating hours and seasons, fees and reservations. Entrance fees vary from park to park, and some parks don't charge admission at all. You'll also find details on available activities, accessibility, maps, brochures and much more.
Enjoy the fall in America's national parks, and experience all that they have to offer you and your family.