Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA. Getty Images

Spending more time outdoors for an afternoon outing or a weeklong vacation is an excellent way to enjoy the sunshine. For a memorable experience, plan to visit a national park this year. With more than 400 areas to choose from, you’re sure to find plenty of intriguing options. Use this interactive map to find the parks close to home (or on the other side of the country!). Here are five great reasons to explore a national park this summer to encourage your adventure.

Nature Improves Mental Health

Visiting national parks is a fun way to spend time outside. Sometimes, a change in surroundings is all we need to reinvigorate our love for nature. Simply being out in the sunshine and breathing fresh air can do wonders for your mental health. Research shows that prioritizing regular access to nature is beneficial to overall senior wellness. If you’re feeling less than enthusiastic about another visit to your neighborhood park, plan a visit to a national park to get a healthy dose of the outdoors. Other benefits to being outside include increased vitamin D and immune system improvement, extra energy, and improved focus. As one senior care organization explains, “Being outdoors gives the brain a break from everyday multitasking and allows it to form new memories and heal itself from over-extension. This contributes to higher attention levels and improved mental health.”

Channel Islands National Park, Getty Images

Regular Exercise is Key to Healthy Aging

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “As an older adult, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can prevent many health problems that seem to come with age.” While exercise can happen indoors or out, walking through a national park is an excellent way to add diversity to your workout routine. The varied landscape will engage your muscles; the sites will make the time go by quickly; and the fresh air will make it easier to maintain consistent breathing. The National Park Service has highlighted the connection between exercise and its parks in recent years with its “Healthy Parks Healthy People” initiative, so head out to participate!

Find a New Way to Connect with History

The National Park Foundation works to “safeguard the historic sites and collections that hold our shared history” so that Americans for generations to come can actively engage in what makes the landscape of our country so unique. When you visit a national park, you’re not only exploring the natural world and all its beauty, you’re also connecting with history in a new way. Whether in a remote area or a more urban monument, these parks serve as a starting point for investigating our nation’s past. Take time to research the park you’re visiting ahead of time so that you can look out for markers and details during your trip. You may stumble upon a new area of interest!

Death Valley National Park, Getty Images

Seniors Get a Lifetime Pass

Entrance fees to national parks can add up, especially if you plan to visit several over the course of a summer. Seniors over 62 are eligible for a lifetime America the Beautiful pass for just $80. The pass is valid at more than 2,000 sites nationwide managed by various federal agencies and provides free admission for either one vehicle or up to four adults. If you aren’t sure whether you’ll use the pass enough to justify the $80, you can buy an annual pass for just $20. Eventually, you can trade four $20 passes for that lifetime sticker if you get hooked on the exploration! The earlier you purchase the pass, the more you can take advantage, so buy one now as an incentive to make your travel plans.

Form National Friendships

National parks are a vacation destination for travelers from all regions and demographic groups. Visiting a park in your area might help you meet others from across the country! Be open to chatting with people you pass on the trails or meet in the campground. You have a natural conversation opener by asking their opinion on the park, future travel plans, etc. Even after you part ways, it’s easy to keep in touch these days—get a physical mailing address for adult pen pal correspondence or use an email for quick connecting. Research shows that seniors who maintain various relationships and social connections have better mental and physical health, so take advantage of this unique way to meet new people!

These are just some of the benefits of exploring a national park this summer, so start planning that trip!

The Active Aging Series is brought to you by our partner, Cambrian Homecare. Cambrian Homecare has been assisting individuals to stay independent in their homes for 25 years. Flexible experience you can trust, when the best place is still at home. Click here to see all of Cambrian’s informative articles.