Setting Your National Park Resolutions

Rebecca WatsonNPF Blog
A hiker at Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park - NPS Photo / N. Lewis

The beginning of a new year is a natural time to reflect on the past year and set intentions for the year to come. It’s a time to cherish fond memories as well as imagine new ones yet to be made, and there is no place as exciting to dream up new experiences as our national parks.

From the scenic wilderness landscapes to the homes and offices of our visionary leaders, national parks show us that life can be both beautiful and complex, and the National Park Foundation (NPF) is dedicated to supporting these treasured places to ensure they thrive and inspire wonder for generations to come.

Join us in learning how to make national parks part of your resolutions for the coming year, as well as how NPF is continuing our commitment to our parks.

Discover a New Favorite Park

Paddler in a folding canoe doing a little birding on the slow water of the Kobuk River. One boater sitting in a canoe on a slow river and looking through binoculars.

A beautiful day on the Kobuk River in Noatak National Preserve

NPS Photo

New year, new places! While there are parks like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone that are iconic American symbols, there are also hundreds of lesser-known places protected by the National Park Service (NPS) waiting to be discovered. From historic structures and cultural sites to dazzling trails and rivers, national parks always offer somewhere new to visit and something new to learn. And with over 400 national parks across the country, there is always a new favorite to discover and enjoy! Not quite sure where to start? Try our Find Your Park Quiz, which provides personalized park recommendations based on your interests.

As America’s national parks welcome a growing number of visitors from around the country and world, it’s important to plan ahead for the needs of parks and park visitors while preserving these special places. NPF’s investments in parks of the future is helping NPS harness the power of technology and innovation to expand the ways people experience parks, including introducing folks to lesser-known parks. Visiting lesser-known parks expands people’s minds and helps reduce the impact of increased visitation that is highly concentrated in a relatively few national parks. Beyond that, NPF is supporting projects that ensure parks are accessible to all, the creation of interactive exhibits and virtual experiences, and efforts to modernize campgrounds. All this work helps to improve the visitor experience while preserving these natural and cultural gems.

Make Your Park Visits More Sustainable

A child holds a green opaque water bottle in one hand while turning a water spigot to fill it up. The spigot emerges from a sign reading "Grand Canyon Spring Water"

Water bottle filling station at Grand Canyon National Park

NPS Photo / Michael Quinn

When you’re making that visit to a new park, ensure that you’re minimizing the waste brought into or left in our parks, which can negatively impact landscapes and wildlife. Your actions in a park can affect plants, animals, other people, and even entire ecosystems. Bring along your own refillable water bottle, and use reusable containers, snack bags, plates, cutlery, or straws to reduce single-use packaging. When you’re ready to head out from the park, make sure you’re packing out what you packed in. By following the seven Leave No Trace principles, we can all help keep parks a safe, clean space for visitors and wildlife alike!

The preservation of our parks is central to NPS’ mission, and NPF’s work in supporting resilience and sustainability in parks is helping to reduce the environmental impact on these treasured places by making park infrastructure more environmentally friendly and sustainable. With programs that reduce waste, promote recycling, invest in renewable and alternative energy sources, and conserve water, NPF and our partners are helping apply innovation and expertise to integrate sustainability practices into all aspects of park operations.

Try a New Park Activity

Two visitors kayak along a still river in Yosemite National Park

Kayaking in Yosemite National Park

Shutterstock / Mayskyphoto

Whether you’re making a visit to a park that’s new to you or an old favorite, a great way to switch up your trip is to try a new activity offered in the park. Maybe it’s a new ranger talk, a trail you’ve yet to venture down, or even just visiting the park at a different time of day to catch the stars – there are so many ways to experience national parks! Check out our Pursuits blog series for ideas on different activities to try in a park this year.

Our national parks hold the power to inspire a sense of wonder and love of adventure in each of us. Through our work in promoting outdoor exploration, NPF helps ensure all people see themselves in parks and feel welcome in these places that belong to all of us. These programs encourage multicultural and multigenerational families to experience, enjoy, and create life-long relationships with our national parks. By eliminating barriers, promoting access, and cultivating connections to all the health benefits the outdoors have to offer, NPF is helping create and deepen longstanding connections to our parks.

Reflect on Our History

Visitors at the Ceremonial Gate near the Wall of Names at the Memorial Plaza

Visitors at the Ceremonial Gate at Flight 93 National Memorial

NPS Photo / C. Claycomb

Each national park has collections of powerful, thrilling, and enchanting stories to share. From the lives and legacies of civil rights leaders to the cultures and traditions of Indigenous peoples, our national parks offer a unique lens through which to view and understand America’s multifaceted and ever-evolving history. Plan a trip to a historic site in the coming year or learn more of the history of your favorite park on your next visit. With over 400 national parks, there are countless stories to discover! 

NPF’s support of history and culture programs protect and preserve these historic sites and collections while aiming to share more comprehensive and inclusive stories that amplify the full range of experiences and voices that are woven into the fabric of the United States. Projects to preserve and restore treasured places ensure they are accessible, inclusive, and welcoming for present and future generations, while work which preserves our diverse cultural history helps people gain a deeper understanding of how the past connects to present day and their personal lives. For example, NPF is proud to support the Mellon Humanities Fellowship program, which helps enhance, expand, and deepen storytelling at national parks through scholarly research, including important themes such as labor history and productivity, the legacy of the civil rights movement, gender and sexuality equality, and women in parks.

Become a Junior Ranger

A family talks to a ranger. Everyone wears masks

A family visits Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

NPS Photo

You’re never too old to become a Junior Ranger! NPS’s Junior Ranger program helps connect visitors of all ages to our shared history, heritage, and national parks through fun and educational activities inspired by the parks. On your park visit, complete a Junior Ranger booklet or program to earn that coveted badge. Junior Ranger programs are interactive ways to learn more about the park and the stories it shares. And if an in-person visit isn’t in the cards, never fear – there are many ways to become a Junior Ranger online!

NPF is proud to support programs that support youth engagement and education, including Junior Ranger programs across the country. NPF has supported both the Junior Ranger Angler program, which introduces families to fishing opportunities in parks, and the creation of the Junior Ranger Railroad Explorer activity booklet, which explores the fascinating history of trains in our parks. Our Open OutDoors for Kids program has connected over one million kids to parks in exciting ways, including hybrid and distance learning activities. The experiences that NPF and our partners help make possible for students promote physical and emotional health, civic engagement, and a long-term appreciation for nature and our national parks. By connecting young people to parks, we cultivate the next generation of park stewards.

Spot Wildlife at a Park

A person looks out their car window to a bison in the distance

Spotting bison in Yellowstone National Park

Shutterstock / Abigail Marie

Some of the iconic vistas of our national parks would not be complete without equally iconic wildlife. Whether it is bison roaming in Badlands National Park or bald eagles soaring over Monocacy National Battlefield, our national parks protect some of the most biologically diverse landscapes in the country. On your next park visit, see if you can track how many different species you spot. Just be sure to maintain a safe distance between yourself and any wildlife you may encounter, for the safety of you and the wildlife.  

NPF’s support of landscape and wildlife conservation efforts help protect native wildlife and restore critical habitats and ecosystems in our parks. NPF helps fund critical ecosystem research to help parks determine how environmental and human impacts are affecting our parks, their habitats, and their wildlife. Habitat restoration and protection efforts put those findings into action, helping to restore parks’ habitats and wildlife populations to their natural state. Helping with some of this research are NPF Science Fellows. They are postdoc academics conducting innovative science research to help NPS address resource management challenges.

Over the past 50-plus years, NPF and our partners have helped conserve over 135,000 acres of additional park land, helping to ensure the health and vibrancy of park environments across the country.

Become a Part of the Park Community

a person bending down to plant a longleaf pine

A volunteer at Big Thicket National Preserve plants a longleaf pine sapling

NPS Photo / Scott Sharaga

Parks flourish when we all work together. Make this year the one you join the community of park champions across the country who ensure our parks are enjoyed for years to come. 

Volunteer your time at a park near you, or support cooperating associations in parks, such as those who operate bookstores, develop park publications, or support additional educational programming in parks. Discover a park partner (also known as “Friends Groups”) organization that supports your favorite park or make a financial contribution to the National Park Foundation to support our many programs and projects. If parks are important to you, this is the year to get involved! 

NPF’s support of communities and workforce programs highlight the power of this type of teamwork and collective dedication. Supporting an expansive network of local nonprofit organizations, volunteer groups, and service corps, this work aims to grow the capacity of our partners, as well as inspire and diversify the next generation of outdoor leaders. From empowering internships to supporting a diverse network of service corps crews and beyond, NPF is enhancing the power of collective efforts in support of our parks.

There are so many ways to incorporate national parks into your goals this year. Whether it’s a visit to somewhere new or a redoubled effort to protect the places you love most, the wonder of our national parks will continue to inspire you. Building on over 50 years of work, NPF continues to connect people everywhere to our national parks, protect wildlife and park lands, educate and engage youth, and preserve history and culture. We do this work in collaboration with NPS, the park partner community, and with the generous support of our donors and park champions like you, without whom our work would not be possible.

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