Encouraging Outdoor Exploration in Our Parks

Rebecca WatsonNPF Blog
A hiker looks out at a scenic overview
Visitor at Zion National Park - Unsplash / Vince Fleming

The wonder of our national parks holds the power to inspire each of us. From admiring wildlife and landscapes to connecting with history and culture, the exploration of our parks is an important and memorable element of the national park experience. However, many factors can hinder people from having such an experience. By eliminating barriers, promoting access, and cultivating connections to the many benefits of being outdoors, the National Park Foundation (NPF), together with our partners, supports outdoor exploration programs that provide opportunities for everyone to experience, enjoy, and create life-long relationships with our parks. 


A group of young people pose for a picture in and outside a tent during the day time

Camping to Connect project, supported by NPF, at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area & Governors Island

Young Masterminds Initiative

Launched in 2021, NPF’s ParkVentures program supports equity-focused outdoor leaders and organizations by providing grants for projects and activities that help people create and strengthen life-long relationships with national parks, with a focus on communities that have been historically excluded from parks and may not feel a sense of belonging in the outdoors. Addressing obstacles that hinder communities from having full and enduring connections to parks, the program is investing in leaders and organizations who have long been removing barriers and bringing people together for joy-filled and meaningful experiences outdoors.

In its inaugural year, NPF’s ParkVentures program is supporting 58 projects that focus on the core themes of representation, accessibility, and interpretation – all things leaders in outdoor reaction and equity spaces identify as barriers. From installing an ADA compliant fishing dock at Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to celebrating the 5th anniversary of Alabama’s Freedom Riders National Monument with an eight-week summer program in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Central Alabama, ParkVentures projects encourage multicultural and multigenerational family units to spend time outdoors.

Junior Ranger Angler 

A ranger and a group of visitors on a rocky shoreline with fishing equipment

Junior Ranger Angler activities at Obed Wild & Scenic River

NPS Photo

Recreational fishing is an activity offered to visitors at nearly 200 national parks nationwide, and NPF’s Junior Ranger Angler program, launched in 2019, supports in-park fishing clinics that help educate and engage the next generation of fishing enthusiasts. An extension of the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program, Junior Ranger Angler encourages young park visitors to earn their Junior Ranger patch and certificate by participating in a series of fishing activities and then sharing their experience with a park ranger.

Activities for Junior Ranger Anglers include hands-on instruction and lessons on topics such as local aquatic habitats, species of fish, fishing safety, and more. NPF’s support of the program helps reduce barriers that often prevent youth from learning the sport, such as the cost of instruction or equipment. In 2021, NPF supported over 30 Junior Ranger Angler projects in parks spanning from Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve to the capital city’s National Mall & Memorial Parks.

From teaching valuable lifelong skills to visitors to collaborating with partner organizations to foster inclusion to promoting the engagement of communities of color with outdoor recreation, NPF’s support of Outdoor Exploration programs help ensure that all people see themselves in parks and feel welcome in these places that belong to all of us. Donate to the National Park Foundation today to help support programs and projects such as these – together we have a powerful impact on our parks. 

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