Time To Sign Up For Summer Field Courses In The National Parks

Sure, it's winter, but you shouldn't be neglecting your summer fun. Now's the time to be signing up for field courses in the national parks.

Take a look around the park system and you can find courses specific to backpacking, water colors, wolf watching, family hiking, photography, and simply natural resources.

Whether you're interested in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Denali, Great Smoky Mountains, North Cascades, or some other national park, there likely is a program to fit your desires. Here's a look at some of the opportunities out there:

Denali National Park

Programs in Denali offer in-depth experiences that immerse adults and youth into the park's landscape for periods of three to five days. Course topics range from archaeology to landscape painting to wildflower identification.

New courses this year include: Mushrooms of Denali, Glaciology Citizen Science, and Women in Wilderness. Professional development credit is available for all courses. A complete list of classes and registration is available at www.murieslc.org and www.alaskageographic.org or by calling 907-683-6432. The courses are coordinated through the Murie Science and Learning Center by Alaska Geographic, a non-profit partner of the National Park Service.

Most courses are based out of the Murie Science and Learning Center Field Camp, located 29 miles inside Denali National Park along the Teklanika River. From this spectacular location participants explore the park’s diverse environments. The Field Camp includes rustic tent cabins and a common dining tent.

Yellowstone National Park

Registration for summer 2014 Yellowstone Association Institute field seminars is now open. You can participate in a program at either the Lamar Buffalo Ranch Field Campus in the park's northeast corner or at the association's Yellowstone Overlook Field Campus in Gardiner, Montana.

The institute offers more than 75 field seminars, ranging from Yellowstone Family Retreat to The Art of the Illuminated Field Journal. To see the full range of courses, check out the institute's course list.

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon Association, through its Field institute, offers a robust slate of courses you can partake in. There are multi-day photography, art, and even yoga courses along the park's rims, an intriguing sounding "Archaeoastronomy of Canyon-Country" coming in June, geology courses (surprise, surprise), sketching classes, and even birding courses.

To see the full range of offerings, check out this page.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, based out of Townsend, Tennessee, can fill your entire summer with wildflower courses, birding classes, and hiking programs. There also is a course to certify yourself as a naturalist, programs with teachers in mind.

And you can be transformed into a "citizen scientist" with programs specific to stream ecology, butterfly tagging, mushroom identification, and even lichen identification.

To see all that the institute offers, check out their homepage and drill down.

North Cascades National Park

The North Cascades Institute turns to the sprawling North Cascades Range, and North Cascades National Park, of course, for its classrooms.

You can work on improving your printmaking with ink and watercolors, explore Ross Lake by canoe, get involved with "Spring Birding East and West of the Cascades," learn to live off the land, or hone your inner poet through a "Poetry and the Wild" course.

To check out the institute's offerings, visit this page.

Rocky Mountain National Park

The Rocky Mountain Nature Association has so many courses it could be a challenge to decide on which to attend. It offers kids and family classes, wildflower classes, photography classes, outdoor skill classes, hiking classes, nature writing classes, and natural history courses.

Sign up for the owl banding class and you can help a researcher with the monitor and capture of owls while learning about their importance in our ecosystem. Curious about ecosystems in Rocky Mountain? Attend a two-night, three-day backpacking trip into the park.

To see the full range of courses, check out this page.