Best National Parks for Alternative Fitness Activities

Hit the Trails! And the Lakes, Beaches and Dunes

National Parks are like giant, outdoor fitness centers, just waiting for you to put them to use. And even though they don't boast racks of dumbbells or lines of treadmills, they provide a wealth of opportunities to get active and improve your health. In 2015, the National Parks Service is offering free admission to all men, women and children during National Parks Week, April 18th - 26th, so grab your family and friends and hit the trails - you may be surprised by the fitness challenges the great outdoors provides.

Best Parks for Horseback Riding

National Park Service

For the uninitiated, you may be surprised to realize that horseback riding requires core strength, leg strength and coordination, even for a basic trail ride.

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Best Parks for Trail Running

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Skip the hike and pick up your pace. These 10 parks have trails that will challenge your stamina while amazing your senses.

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Best Parks for Surfing

National Park Service

Yes, you can surf in National Parks... more specifically, along national shorelines. Just grab a board and hit the waves - you'll challenge your strength and balance in the process.

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Best Parks for Kayaking or Canoeing

Whether you're looking for a nice, easy paddle, or you want to brave white-capped rapids, the National Parks Service includes a multitude of lakes, rivers and shores where you can set sail.

Best Parks for Sandboarding

National Park Service

Never heard of sandboarding? You're in for a treat. It's like snowboarding, but on sand dunes. The main difference is most parks don't have lifts to help you get to the top of the dunes... that means you get the double workout of climbing to the top before boarding to the bottom.

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Best Parks for Rock Climbing

 If you're ready to graduate from an indoor climbing gym to real rock surfaces, look no further than these national parks.

Best Parks for Scuba Diving

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Yep, you can even get fit exploring under the water. While scuba diving may not be an overly strenuous workout, you still have to swim through the water's resistance, and in some cases, against a current - it definitely qualifies as moderate-intensity exercise.

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Best Family Hikes in National Parks

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 When you're heading to the park with the whole fam, you need a workout appropriate for all levels. These parks offer something for everyone.

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Best Parks for Geocaching

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Geocaching is like a great outdoor scavenger hunt, but you use GPS data points to discover hidden items or locations. National Parks often offer geocaching programs, but you need to be sure you're following the rules. Most parks don't allow unapproved caches to be stored on federal land.

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Best Parks for Mountain Biking

Mountain biking may seem fairly mainstream, but the trails at these parks are definitely "alternative." Rent a bike or load up your own for a fantastic outdoor adventure... just remember to wear your safety gear.

Enjoying the National Parks

There are more than 400 national parks and more than 84 million acres of protected national park land in the United States, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico. In 2014, more than 292 million people visited the parks. And while many of the National Parks are well known, including Yellowstone, the Everglades and the Grand Canyon, you may be surprised to find smaller, lesser known parks in your area. Rather than take your family to a local playground in April, check out the nearby National Parks and appreciate the beauty of the protected land.

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