Backpack optional: explore the outdoors with Eleanor Smith



ENDLESS ADVENTURE. Along with the never-ending list of activities comes never-ending fun for campers and adventurers.

There are over 400 national parks and nearly 4,000 state parks in the United States. Minnesota is home to six national parks and 66 state parks. The main difference between a state park and national park is that national parks are governed by the federal government and state parks by state and local governments.
Senior Eleanor Smith is an avid national and state park explorer, visiting them has given her numerous experiences and taught her how to visit and explore national parks.
The first time Smith went to a national park was on a road trip that took her from Wyoming to Yellowstone when she was 10.
‘“There’s so many things to do so we never run out of camping spots, swimming spots and things to do,” Smith said.
In order for a park to become a national park it must be significant to the country either culturally, naturally, or recreationally. National parks are managed by the natural park service. State parks are formed similarly, but instead of being significant to the country the space must be significant to the state or the community in which it resides.
Millions of people visit parks of all kinds in the United States each year including many people traveling from outside the country to see the wonders of the parks in the United States.
The most popular national parks in the US are may be surprising: the National Park Service lists Blue Ridge Parkway (NC) at 15.9 million visitors last year, followed by Great Smoky Mountains (Appalachia) at 14.1 million, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area (CA) at 13.7 million.
While some may see visiting national parks for the first time as a daunting task, Smith shares that even her family started as novices.
“There are a lot of people there who are very experienced and there are people who are not, but people are always happy to have you there and there are many ways to gain experience,” Smith said.
The community of national park goers is welcoming and willing to share the beauty of national parks with others interested.
“There’s something for everyone hiking wise and in the national parks there are so many different things to do,” Smith said.
There are national and state parks all over the country with something different to offer to park goers. While camping or driving through some parks—like Glacier National Park or Yosemite National Park—require paid reservations, three quarters of all national parks are free for the public to enjoy.