Reaching your Golden Years doesn’t have to mean giving up on outdoor adventures. In fact, for most seniors, hitting those milestones means enjoying retirement and plenty of time off to travel. Even if your physical abilities aren’t what they used to be, you can still enjoy a visit to any of our nation’s beautiful national parks. With accessible trails and facilities and plenty to do for every age, you’ll find endless things to see and do. Keep reading to learn how to plan your next outdoor adventure in your Golden Years.
Don’t Assume You Can’t Enjoy a Beautiful Hike
If mobility is an issue, you might assume that hiking is out of the question. But the truth is that most national parks offer plenty of easy trails, many of which are flat, paved, wheelchair accessible, and perfect for hikers of all ages and ability levels.
Capitol Reef is home to several accessible trails, including:
- Petroglyph Panel
- Fruita Schoolhouse
- Merin-Smith Implement Shed
- The boardwalk trail to the petroglyphs on Utah Highway 24
Each of the first three trails on the above list also features audio guides to enhance your experience and help you learn about the park and its rich history.
Look for Hiking Alternatives
For those who can’t hike or who are just looking for some other ways to enjoy a national park, there are plenty of other ways to do so that don’t require physical abilities or stamina. In fact, some of the most unique activities you can enjoy in the parks are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities.
Sightseeing, for instance, is a breeze in Zion. Simply hop on the Zion Canyon Shuttle and you can easily get to various overlooks that make it easy to take in the park’s most recognizable features.
In Capitol Reef, stargazing is a must-see. The park is one of four national parks in Utah to hold an International Dark Sky designation. This means that park officials have taken efforts to reduce light pollution, making it a stunning spot to take in the stars. The park also regularly hosts stargazing events that make it even easier to take a look at what’s surrounding our own planet.
Every national park boasts scenic drives that you easily enjoy from the comfort of your own vehicle. In Capitol Reef, take the Scenic Drive, Cathedral Valley Loop, Notom-Bullfrog Road, or the Burr Trail for beautiful views of the park’s vibrant landscapes.
Visit in Shoulder Seasons
If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying retirement or have accumulated plenty of off-time over the years, try to plan your national park adventure during the shoulder season. This is a great way to take advantage of a park with fewer guests, lines, and traffic. If you’re hoping to visit Zion, the fourth most-visited national park in the nation, visiting during the early spring or late fall is a great way to beat the rush and enjoy a more open park.
Take Advantage of the Senior Pass
One big perk of visiting national parks as a senior? Some serious cost-savings.
If you are lucky enough to be age 62 or older, you are eligible for a Senior Pass to the national parks. The pass is available to all senior citizens of the U.S. for just $80. This is the same cost as the America the Beautiful Pass, but with a big twist; rather than only being good for a year, it’s good for life.
With your pass, you can enter any national park, free of charge, as often as you’d like. You also gain free access to over 2,000 federal lands and recreation areas managed by five other agencies, including:
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- Bureau of Reclamation
- U.S. Forest Service
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
While not all national parks have an entrance fee, many of the most popular ones do. Capitol Reef costs $20 per vehicle or $7 per person for those entering the park on foot. You can purchase a park-specific annual pass for $35, but if you plan to visit other parks, the Senior Pass is the clear choice.
In addition to free entrance for the pass holder, the Senior Pass will allow you to bring three other adults into the park with you. The Senior Pass also provides discounts on some amenity fees, like camping, swimming, or boat launch fees. In some cases, these may even be free with a Senior Pass.
Stay in the Middle of Nature
If you’re worried that you may wake up one morning of your trip too tired to go far or too sore to hit the trails, you may find yourself confined to your hotel or vacation rental. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
If you choose the right base camp for your national park trip, you’ll ensure that you have plenty to do on your “rest” days. At Cougar Ridge, you can relax in the hot tub or schedule a spa treatment to help yourself unwind after a day of hiking. Roast marshmallows over a fire while you gaze at the stars. You can even schedule a class or demonstration to learn everything from painting to photography. There’s truly something for every age and ability. You might just find that your days spent at Cougar Ridge end up being the most memorable of your entire trip.
Planning Your National Park Trip
No matter your age or ability level, a trip to a national park like Capitol Reef is always a good choice. With a little planning, you’ll find that there is truly something for everyone to enjoy.