April 21 kicks off National Parks Week! Spend the first day of this week-long celebration visiting national parks without having to pay an entrance fee.

National parks highlight the beautiful landscapes throughout our country. These parks can take visitors to deserts, forests, coastal lands, and beyond, and they are an amazing way to explore our natural environment in an increasingly urbanized world. The Grand Canyon National Park is even one of the seven national wonders of the world! On April 21, you can visit any of these national parks without having to pay an entrance fee as a kick-off to National Parks Week. Other events during National Parks Week include Earth Day, Military & Veteran Recognition Day, and National Park Rx Day. There are 58 national parks in the United States. That gives you plenty of options to visit. Here are some great options right near the DMV area!

Great Falls National Park

[caption id="attachment_8573" align="aligncenter" width="656"]National Parks Week Courtesy of TripAdvisor[/caption] Where: 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, Virginia 22102 This beautiful forested park provides visitors with lots of sights. Visitors can see one of the nation's first canals and the cascading Greats Falls, as well as local wildlife. Just a short 15-mile drive from Washington, D.C., this park is a great pick for DMV residents. Hike as long as you would like! The falls are located just five to 10 minutes from the visitor center and parking lots. The falls have three overlooks that you can head towards, all of which are handicap accessible. If you want more of an adventure, you can meander along one of the many trails. A highly recommended trail is the Billy Goat Trail, a 4.7-mile hike that allows you to explore both the falls and the canal!

Shenandoah National Park

[caption id="attachment_8574" align="aligncenter" width="660"]National Parks Week Courtesy of Virginia Is for Lovers[/caption] Where3655 U.S. Highway 211 East, Luray, Virginia 22835 The 75-mile trip away from Washington, D.C., will be worth these breathtaking scenic views. This park provides visitors with over 500 miles of trails on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Shenandoah National Park even crosses over with The Appalachian Trail more than 30 times -- so you can hop onto this famous trail without having to backpack for months. If you're not in the hiking mood, you can also drive along Skyline Drive to take in the sights.

Assateague Island National Seashore

[caption id="attachment_8577" align="alignnone" width="659"]The Pew Charitable Trusts Courtesy of Britannica[/caption] Where7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin, Maryland 21811 This coastal oasis is the perfect national park for the beach lover. You can hike, kayak, fish, bird watch, and bike along the 37 miles of beach. What makes this park so iconic are the wild horses that roam along the shoreline. You can get some great photos of these majestic creatures; just remember to give them space as they are wild animals!

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

[caption id="attachment_8576" align="aligncenter" width="678"]National Parks Week Courtesy of The Pew Charitable Trusts[/caption] Where: 767 Shenandoah St, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 25425 This park spans the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. Harpers Ferry is a historic site where figures such as George Washington, John Brown, Stonewall Jackson, and Frederick Douglass passed through. It was also the location of a slave revolt in 1850 that was led by John Brown, as well as the largest surrender of troops during the Civil War. You can hike up the mountains and get a beautiful view of the quaint town and then head into Harpers Ferry to see history firsthand. What do you think? Will you be visiting one of these national parks during National Parks Week? Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!

How many of these hidden D.C. gems have you visited?