Want to Honor the Birthday of the National Parks? Hit the Trails

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Dear Readers,

Tomorrow, Aug. 25, is the 103rd birthday of the United States National Park Service. To celebrate, admission fees are waived and many parks are holding special events — why not use it as an opportunity to go for a run in a National Park site?

And I don’t just mean the 61 National Parks. The National Park Service oversees 419 sites, including national homesteads, seashores, monuments and memorials.

“A lot of parks, even some of the smaller historic sites, have nice walking trails or running trails that can be used for running,” said Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service.

If you’re unsure about whether you can run in a park, check the site’s website, or contact the park and ask a park ranger. Some might be too small and not have a place to exercise; other trails might look like they’re good for running — like Angels Landing in Zion National Park in Utah — but may be too crowded when you want to go, especially if you’re planning to hit them on Labor Day weekend.

Runners should also respect guidelines and warnings about wildlife, Ms. Kupper said. The most common injury at the Grand Canyon, for example, is not trips and falls but squirrel bites from people trying to feed the animals when they’re not supposed to, she said.

Many parks have organized races, like the Valley Forge Revolutionary Five-Mile Run in Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania in April; the Towpath Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio in October; the Spa Running Festival in Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas in November; and the Death Valley Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K in Death Valley National Park in California in December.

And if you’ve ever run the New York City Marathon, you may not have realized you were in a National Park site: It starts in the Gateway National Recreation Area.

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My two favorite National Park units for running are Valley Forge National Historical Park, which has 28 miles of both paved and unpaved trails, and Acadia National Park in Maine, which has 45 miles of gravel carriage roads as part of its more than 120-mile trail network. Do you have a favorite National Park unit for running? Let me know — I’m on Twitter @byjenamiller.

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