There may be no better way to celebrate Earth Day this year than to show some love to America’s national parks—nine of which call California home. This year’s National Park Week runs from April 20–28 and kicks off Saturday with a Fee-Free Day at all national parks.
“National parks are sources of inspiration, recreation, and education for everyone,” says National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith. “During National Park Week, a wide variety of creative programs and events across the country will showcase these amazing places and encourage everyone to visit a park.”
Indeed, each day of National Park Week has a theme: Beyond offering free admission, April 20 is also Junior Ranger Day, Sunday is Military & Veterans Recognition Day, and Saturday the 27th is Bark Ranger Day, celebrating the parks that welcome pets, including Yosemite National Park.
Certainly, it’s an excellent excuse to plan a trip to a national park you haven’t yet visited—or an affiliated facility like a national seashore or recreation area. On April 20, there’s an Earth Day Beach Cleanup and Salmon Fest at Point Reyes National Seashore, which is located north of San Francisco. Death Valley National Park will host a Night Sky Program on both Saturday and Sunday, while the Golden Gate National Recreation Area will host a birding tour on Sunday.
On the flora front, you can take a guided, one-hour forest walk starting at the Stout Grove Trailhead at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, part of the Redwood National and State Parks. At Pinnacles National Park, east of Monterey, celebrate Earth Day by helping to remove non-native plants, tidy trails, or collect native seeds (then stick around for the evening campfire program, which runs regularly this time of year).
Or just treat this nine-day window as an excuse to explore a national park on your bucket list, like the blissfully untouched Channel Islands National Park, where you can take guided hikes on pretty much any day that the ferries are running out of Ventura or Oxnard.
“National Park Week is a great time to find your park with loved ones,” says National Park Foundation President Will Shafroth. “and to experience the stories and adventures that await in these treasured places.”