I used the “Build a Trip” feature at www.recreation.gov to start planning possible stops on my August trip to northwest Nebraska to see the total solar eclipse. Plug in a few spots and the map will show you what else is around to see. Click on an icon to see more information on a spot, with an option given to save it to your trip plan. You can order the locations and even print out the plan if you like. This is a screen shot of my work to date.
I used the “Build a Trip” feature at www.recreation.gov to start planning possible stops on my August trip to northwest Nebraska to see the total solar eclipse. Plug in a few spots and the map will show you what else is around to see. Click on an icon to see more information on a spot, with an option given to save it to your trip plan. You can order the locations and even print out the plan if you like. This is a screen shot of my work to date.
It’s never too early to start thinking about fun summer activities and vacation. Where will you go? When? Wouldn’t it be sweet if there happened to be just one website with all kinds of planning help?

Well, your wish is my command. No, I’m not a genie . . . I don’t even play one on TV, although I do remember that Jeannie character from “I Dream of Jeannie” back in the 1960s. Oh, how I age myself! But I’m all on the ball – and I’ve found you a wonderful website, www.recreation.gov.

The website is subtitled “Explore Your America.” You’ll find it especially handy-dandy if you want to visit federal lands and find places to camp, tours to take, reservations to make, lakes to boat and fish, and much, MUCH more. It’s time to head there.

You can set up your own account there and it’s perhaps a good thing to do first. Or not – your choice. You will need an account if you decide to make some type of reservation during your website exploration.

There are six headings at the top of the website page. You’ll want to check them all. We’ll look at “About Us” first, even if it is the last listed at the far right. I’ll quote this part, since it gives a bit more in-depth idea of all the website entails:

Recreation.gov is your gateway to discover America’s Outdoors and more!

Recreation.gov is your one-stop shop for trip planning, information sharing and reservations brought to you by 12 federal participating partners. Seven of these partner agencies – including the Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Archives – offer advance reservations at 2,500 federal areas for over 60,000 facilities and activities.

Use Recreation.gov to:

• Discover which parks, forests, lakes, museums, and areas managed by federal agencies offer recreation opportunities near you or your destination.

• Use interactive maps to get information, plan your trip, or to initiate a reservation on-line (or Contact Us).

Here are just a few of the things you can plan for your American adventure:

• Pitch a tent — Reserve a campsite anywhere from destination campgrounds like Grand Canyon National Park to lesser-known gems like Maple Grove Campground on the Fishlake National Forest, to unique camping experiences that require planning and preparation like Brooks Camp in Alaska.

• Hike a trail — Recreation.gov provides information on everything from easy day hikes with trailheads starting at the campground, to challenging wilderness routes such as the Enchantment Permit Area within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

• Whitewater raft — These challenging trips – such as the Snake River through Hells Canyon, North America’s deepest river gorge – require research, experience, advance planning, and preparation. Try the Youghiogheny for a range of experiences from beginner to advanced.

• Pack a Picnic — Reserve a popular shelter like the Appalachian Clubhouse in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a meeting or celebration, or one of the lakeside Army Corps of Engineers picnic shelters, such as lovely Buck Ridge on Henley Lake.

• Spelunk — Cave lovers will enjoy tours from easy to challenging at cave systems like Mammoth, Carlsbad, and Blanchard Springs.

• Settle into a cabin — These range from remote and rustic cabins accessible only by boat or float plane, like San Juan Bay Cabin, only by train, like Denver Caboose Cabin in Alaska, to those with more amenities like water, electricity and road access at Blue Springs Gap Cabin.

• Bunk in a fire lookout tower — These are mostly historic fire lookouts once used by wildland firefighters, like 55-foot tall Spruce Mountain Fire Lookout located at 10,000 feet. Most offer panoramic views of mountains, forests and wildlife but may not offer electricity, running water, or road access.

• Climb — Permits for some of the most challenging and popular climbs, such as the Cables on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, require application through a lottery.

• Mountain Bike — Some of the best mountain biking trails are on federal public lands, from the Allegrippis Trail System at Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania to 142-mile Kokopelli’s Trail that goes from Loma, Col., to Moab, Utah.

• Canoe or kayak — Recreation.gov allows you to reserve a permit for a remote wilderness canoe experience like Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Trip planning is easier for canoe and kayak adventurers at Army Corps of Engineers facilities or National Parks near urban areas, like Red Rock Lake outside of Des Moines, Iowa, or Chattahoochee River outside Atlanta, Ga.

• Catch a fish — Fishing is a popular activity for all ages at many Army Corps of Engineers Lakes and National Wildlife Refuges and many other federal public lands. Some facilities, like Ice Harbor Dam at Lake Sacajawea, also offer underwater fish windows to view spawning salmon.

• Explore American history and culture — Tour iconic places that represent the American experience at diverse locations like Independence National Historical Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

• Special events — Enter a lottery to win tickets for traditional American events like the annual White House Easter Egg Roll or the National Christmas Tree Lighting.

• Motor boat — Motor boating sports – like waterskiing and wakeboarding – are some of the most popular activities at Army Corps of Engineers and other federally managed lakes.