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Celebrating our National Parks

  • The slabs of granite that hang over the edge of Half Dome form what many refer to as "The Diving Board" in Yosemite National Park in California, on September 18, 2005. (Ryan Huff/Contra Costa Times/MCT)

There's nothing like the hush of a redwood forest, the echo of a canyon or the crash of a wave on the beach to clear the head and revive the spirit.

From April 19 to 27, the National Park Service and the National Parks Foundation welcome wilderness lovers across America to celebrate the country's most breath-taking landscapes during National Park Week.

The week-long celebration, which includes Earth Day on April 22, kicks off with two fee-free entrance days on April 19 and 20. To reserve your entry pass, go to nps.gov. If you want to visit several parks this year, there's also an $80 annual pass.

There are nine national parks in California that you can visit — Channel Islands, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Pinnacles, Lassen Volcanic, Redwood, Sequoia and Yosemite — plus 23 other places, ranging from national monuments like Muir Woods to Point Reyes National Seashore.

Need help in planning your getaway? Download one of the free owner's guides, aimed at everyone from hikers and families to lovers and solitude-seekers. (nationalparks.org/ownersguide.)

Another way to support the National Parks Foundation is to take the family to the new Disneynature documentary, "Bears," during its opening week, April 18 to 24.

The film showcases a year in the life of a brown bear mother and her two cubs, growing up amid the craggy mountains and cold, salmon-filled rivers of Alaska.

For each movie ticket sold, Disneynature will make a donation to the National Parks Foundation to protect wildlife and wild places. For group tickets (20 or more people), call 1-888-347-6396.

To help educate youth about bears and other wildlife, Disneynature has released a free "Bears Educator's Guide," including lessons and activities targeted at grades 2 through 6. To download, go to nature.disney.com/bears/educators-guide.


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