Washington is home to 130 national and state parks, with miles of trails and beaches, soaring mountains with meadows full of wildflowers and sweeping high desert vistas.
They make for great self-guided escapes year-round.
But many parks also offer a variety of ranger-led programs. These are good opportunities for visitors to learn about these parks and what makes them special.
Here is a glimpse of what is being offered in the coming weeks:
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Shadows of the Past: One of the most interesting interpretive programs presented by the park is this interactive 0.7-mile walk along the Trail of Shadows at Longmire. This year’s living history program will be Saturday.
Park staff members and volunteers will portray some of the key figures from the park’s history, telling the story from the park’s early years (1883-1916). Groups will be led by lantern-carrying guides, going from station to station.
The 80-minute tours will depart at 8:30, 8:50, 9:10 and 9:30 p.m. Visitors should be dressed for the weather, and bring a flashlight and insect repellant.
The tours are free with the park admission of $15 per private vehicle.
Take in the stars: Every Thursday through Monday night, through Labor Day, expert astronomers with telescopes are stationed in front of the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. They will help visitors view objects in the night skies and answer questions.
For a schedule of regularly scheduled ranger programs, go to http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/rangerprograms.htm
Ridge meadow walk: Visitors to the Hurricane Ridge area can take part in a ranger-led walk. The hourlong walks offer a chance to see wildlife and wildflowers, and learn about the other features of the park’s subalpine habitat zone. The walks are offered daily at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. For more information, call 360-565-3130.
To see what other programs the park offers, go to http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/events.htm.
Join the Junior Rangers: Young visitors to the park have the chance to become a Junior Ranger during a program held every Saturday. Taking place 10 a.m.-noon at the Colonial Creek and Newhalem Creek campground amphitheaters, youths take part in a variety of activities. Successfully completing age-appropriate activities will result in participants earning a Junior Ranger badge. Parents are encouraged to join the exploration, and must remain with young children.
If you will be at the park on other days, Junior Ranger books are available at visitor centers and other park locations and can be completed then.
Native history: During this easy 45-minute ranger-led walk, visitors will go to an important archaeological site and learn about the 1,400-year-old hunting camp, and how the Upper Skagit people have used the area for 9,000 years.
The walk is offered every Saturday through Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m. Visitors should meet at the Rock Shelter Trailhead, near Newhalem. The trail is wheelchair accessible, but some assistance might be needed by those in wheelchairs.
For more information, call 206-386-4495, Ext.11.
Washington State Parks
Free Park Tours: Camano Island visitors can take a free bus tour between Cama Beach and Camano Island state parks Saturday and Aug. 30.
Participants will have the opportunity to see the sights in both parks, walk on trails, visit the store, rent a boat, eat at the Café and hear some educational information from a volunteer driver.
The tours run 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Learn about bats: If you will be on Whidbey Island late in the month, consider stopping at South Whidbey State Park on Aug. 30. Sara Schmidt will give a presentation “Bats — Friends of the Night” from 7:30-8:30 p.m. The park is at 4128 S. Smugglers Cove Road, Freeland.
For more state park events, go tohttp://www.parks.wa.gov/calendar.aspx.