National Park Service Ranger Programs

Experience an interactive educational program with a National Park service ranger! Most Saturdays from April through October, stop by the Explore Park Visitor for free hikes or interpretive sessions. For more information about these programs, or to learn more about each week’s topic, please call (540) 427-1800. No advance registration is required for these activities, but an adult must accompany all children. All programs meet at the Visitor Center. All dates and times are subject to change.

Crafting Afternoons: Every other Saturday starting in May at 2:30 PM

Spend an afternoon with a National Park Ranger making nature crafts and reading books. One hour program; topics will vary. Check website, social media, or call us for the week’s program details. Indoors at the Visitor Center. 

  • May 4, May 18, June 1, June 15, June 29, July 13, July 27, August 10, August 24


Ranger Chats: Every other Saturday starting in May at 2:30 PM

Join a National Park Ranger for an hour long and kid-focused chat about the wonders of the natural world. Topics will vary: check our website, social media, or call for the week’s program details. Located at the visitor center, but may include travel to an outdoor site in good weather. May discussion topic is birding.

  • May 11, May 25, June 8, June 22, July 6, July 20, August 3, August 17, August 31
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Weekly Hikes with a NPS Ranger

A Sorting Ceremony for Animal Lovers
Hike: 1.5 miles Level: Moderate  Duration: 1.5-2hours

Have you ever wanted to be sorted into your special house? Do you love animals and want to explore the wonders of their natural habitats? Join a National Park Ranger for a hike that takes you into the magical world of animal life and ends with your very own sorting ceremony. This program is designed for children and their families. Available Dates:

  • Saturday, April 20 - 3:00 PM
  • Saturday, April 27 - 2:30 PM
  • Saturday, May 4 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, May 18 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, June 1 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, June 22 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, July 6 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, August 3 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, August 24 - 9:00 AM

Tiny Things for Tiny Ones Hike
Hike: Up to 1 mile   Level: Easy     Duration: 1 hour

Take a look at the amazing world of small things we don't always notice. This hike is focused on our youngest participants and their families.

  • Saturday, May 11 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, May 25 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, June 15 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, July 20 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, August 17 - 9:00 AM

Special Hike: Varies Monthly
Each month a National Park Ranger will offer a new hike on a special topic. Topics may include bugs, birds, or other exciting things. All hikes will be kid-focused and family friendly. Check our website, social media, or call for the week’s program details.

  • Saturday, June 8 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, July 13 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, August 10 - 9:00 AM

Challenge Hike: Last Saturday of Each Month
Hike: 3 miles   Level: Moderate   Duration: 2.5 hours

Challenge your family and yourself by coming on a longer and more strenuous hike with a National Park Ranger. Explore the more remote trails of Explore Park. Meant for older kids and adults. Bring water and snacks and wear closed-toed shoes.

  • Saturday, June 29 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, July 27 - 9:00 AM
  • Saturday, August 31 - 9:00 AM


Star Gazing Programs
Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks near Explore Park are some of the best places in our region to observe the night sky! Astronomy enthusiast Michael Overacker will join our National Park Service ranger for an interactive star watching experience. All programs will meet at the Pine Mountain overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway spur connecting Milepost 115 with Explore Park. Upcoming programs:

  • Friday, May 31 at 9:00 PM
  • Friday, July 5 at 9:15 PM
  • Friday, August 2 at 9:00 PM
  • Friday, September 27 at 7:30 PM
  • Friday, October 25 at 7:00 PM