America’s national parks system is the focus of a profound celebration in its centennial year, and increases in tourism to all NPS sites — parks, memorials, historic sites, monuments, recreation areas, and seashores — are marked. Acadia National Park saw 198,549 visits in May of 2016 — an increase of 13% compared to May of 2015. Yosemite National Park has already seen 1,433,428 visits since the start of 2016. By comparison, consider that the first data that tracked tourism to nationally protected sites was collected in 1904, and recorded 120,690 visits to six national parks.
During National Park Birthday week, August 25-28, 2016, all NPS sites will be fee-free. When we visited Utah’s mighty five national parks in April, we considered some strategies for touring during what is sure to be a busy summer season.
1. Check the local school calendar.
By the time of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday in August, many public schools in the U.S. will already be back in session. We visited Zion during the New York City public school break, but locals with children, who value time in the parks just as much as visitors, were not on spring vacation. East Coast school districts tend to end the school year in late June, and many districts throughout the country are back in session in August.
2. Consider a range of national sites, not just parks.