News From Our Blog

Hike, Camp and More in Yosemite National Park

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Yosemite National Park

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Image description: People have been camping in Yosemite National Park since the 1800s. Photo from the National Park Service.

World-renowned photographer Ansel Adams captured some of the nation’s best sights and scenery in his lifetime of work as a nature photographer. In the words of President Jimmy Carter, Adams was “drawn to the beauty of nature’s monuments” - and he found no greater inspiration than Yosemite National Park.

Adams, though perhaps one of the most well-known and artistic, is far from the only person to find success and happiness within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park. Thousands of visitors have visited the 1,200 square miles of national park since its protection in 1864, hiking miles of trail, capturing one of its many scenic cliff faces on film, laying down in a meadow, or camping in the middle of the valley.

Although the park may be most known for its picturesque waterfalls, there are a plethora of activities available for visitors to explore and experience:

Before traveling, check the current conditions in the park and read up on its illustrious history.

Explore the Iconic Mount Rushmore

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Summer is a great time to take advantage of our national parks and monuments. Many offer free or low-cost admissions and programs perfect for families. So this summer we will be featuring one of our country’s public lands every week and highlighting things you and your family can do there.

Mount Rushmore

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Image description: The iconic Mount Rushmore. Photo from the National Park Service.

Mount Rushmore is iconic, there’s no doubt about it! The massive carving, with its surrounding mountainside, is one of our nation’s most recognizable public landmarks. That’s not all there is to it, though - by visiting this public land, you can learn about the sculptures’ tumultuous history, explore the Avenue of Flags or take a hike in the South Dakota Black Hills.

More than 3 million visitors from across the nation and around the world visit the park annually, to see the landmark that has been described as a “symbol of freedom and hope for people from all cultures and backgrounds.”

Initially, Doane Robinson, often called the “Father of Mount Rushmore,” intended for a carving of one of the Needles in the likeness of a notable Sioux. This plan changed as time went on and today, the carvings of four great American presidents look out from the side of Mount Rushmore.

 To learn more about the history of the installation - including the blasting away of one of the president’s heads in 1933 and the proposal of including Susan B. Anthony on the mountainside - check out PBS’s timeline of Mount Rushmore’s creation.

After taking a snapshot of the 60-foot-tall heads staring out at you from the ancient rock, be sure to check out the other activities that the park has to offer:

  • Visit the Avenue of Flags (PDF), created as a celebration of America’s bicentennial

  • Take a guided walk to the Sculptor’s Studio, or one of the other available ranger tours

  • Attend the Evening Sculpture Lighting Ceremony which takes place at approximately 9 p.m. nightly from May to September

  • Take in the Burkett Plaque, in honor of then-college student William Andrew Burkett’s award-winning essay (PDF)

  • Bask in the beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota

When planning your visit, you can check out the National Weather Service’s forecast or read brochures about the park, available online through the National Park Service. You can also read President George Bush’s remarks at the park’s dedication July 3, 1991, available courtesy of the American Presidency Project.

Enjoy National Parks with an Annual Pass

If your vacation or weekend plans include visits to national parks and recreation areas, consider getting a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Benefits of the Pass

The pass provide entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the United States. Entrance covers:

  • Pass owner and accompanying passengers in a single private vehicle where per-vehicle fees are charged.
  • Pass owner and three accompanying individuals ages 16 and older where per-person entrance fees are charged (children under 16 are admitted for free).


Types of Passes

  • Annual Pass - It’s $80 (ages 16 years and older) and valid for one year.
  • Annual Pass for Military - Members of the U.S. military and their dependents are eligible for a free Annual Pass. 
  • Senior Pass - It’s $10 and valid for the lifetime of the pass owner. You must be 62 years or older and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Access Pass - It’s free for the lifetime of the pass holder with documentation of a permanent disability. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Volunteer Pass - You can earn this pass with 250 or more hours of volunteer service on public lands. The pass is valid for one year.
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From the U.S. Department of Interior:

Not all of our public lands are far from urban areas. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area chronicles two hundred years of history, from Native American culture, the Spanish Empire frontier and the Mexican Republic, to maritime history, and the California Gold Rush. It also provides some pretty killer views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Photo: Justin Kern

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From the U.S. Department of Interior:

Not all of our public lands are far from urban areas. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area chronicles two hundred years of history, from Native American culture, the Spanish Empire frontier and the Mexican Republic, to maritime history, and the California Gold Rush. It also provides some pretty killer views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.

Photo: Justin Kern

Image description: Top photo: the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.

Bottom photo: San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington

On Monday, President Obama established five new national monuments across the country. The monuments protect natural resources and preserve rich history and lush landscapes in five different states: Delaware, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington.

From the White House:

The monuments are:

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio: The monument will preserve the home of Col. Charles Young (1864–1922), a distinguished officer in the United States Army who was the third African American to graduate from West Point and the first to achieve the rank of Colonel.

First State National Monument in Delaware: The monument will tell the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, as well as Delaware’s role as the first state to ratify the Constitution. The park is comprised of three historic areas related to Delaware’s rich history: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the courthouse, Green and Sheriff’s House), and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland: The monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who was responsible for helping enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom. The new national park, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad. 

Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico: Located northwest of Taos, the Río Grande del Norte contains stretches of the Río Grande Gorge and extinct volcanoes that rise from the Taos Plateau. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities – like rafting, fishing and hiking – and serves as important habitat for many birds and wildlife.

San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington: Home to bald eagles, orca whales, harbor seals and other rare species, the San Juan Islands is a chain of 450 islands, rocks and pinnacles. Located in Washington State’s Puget Sound, the archipelago provides an opportunity for visitors, campers, kayakers and birdwatchers to experience the natural beauty of the undeveloped, rugged landscape.

Learn more about the five new national monuments.

View more pictures of Rio Grande del Norte and San Juan Islands national monuments.

Photos from the Bureau of Land Management.