Last week, I told you that America's national parks  and other public lands  were all free this past weekend – in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Well, the fact that the holiday weekend is now over certainly doesn't mean that it's too late to explore the country's public lands, many of which are often free or close-to-free on a regular basis.
As you can see on Moon.com's home page – which currently features Arizona's Grand Canyon , among other outdoor pleasures – I'm not the only one with national parks on the brain. Even fellow Moon author Becky Lomax has offered a few tips for enjoying wintertime in America's national parks , from Acadia to Yellowstone.
So, it seems like the perfect time to share a little discovery I made last week. While working on my last two posts, I was contacted by Kelly Restuccia, Communications Manager of the American Park Network, who told me about a free mobile app that's presently available. Called the Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder , this wonderful little app helps you browse through more than 6,000 state and national parks, state and national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands available in the United States, including those in Alaska and Hawaii. Even better, in a matter of seconds, you can find the closest places nearest you, simply by entering your location and desired activity (or activities) – and since “the app database is available offline,” according to Kelly, “folks can search by zip whether they have cell service or not.” She adds, of course, that “you can't load Google maps or download PDF park maps without connectivity, but everything else works.”
Since I'm in New Orleans at the moment, working on the third edition of Moon New Orleans , I simply plugged in my current location and a few recreational diversions (namely, bird-watching, camping, and hiking), and – voila! – a slew of options appeared, from Bayou Segnette State Park, which is only about eight miles from the city, to De Soto National Forest in nearby Mississippi.
Of course, the app can also help you locate destinations far from home, making it easier to plan outdoor adventures nationwide. Just plug in any appropriate city or town (or zip code), and you can find public lands within 250 miles of that locale. As Kelly says, “It's great for planning weekend getaway trips near home or for making game-time decisions during road trips and longer adventures.”
The only trouble is that this cool little app is only available for iPhones, which works well for me but not so much for my husband, who happens to have an Android. Luckily, though, he can simply use the OhRanger.com website  to access the same database and ParkFinder functionality – and, according to Kelly, the company is “in the process of developing an Android version,” which should be available soon. (While that didn't stop Dan from complaining about the current Apple bias in the marketplace, he was glad to know that the Android version was in the works.)
So, do you have a favorite travel app – whether free or otherwise?
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Disclosure: While I occasionally accept free or discounted travel assistance when it coincides with my editorial goals, my opinion is never for sale, which means that everything written in my American Nomad blog and Moon travel guides is my unbiased reflection of the things that I see, do, and experience while traveling across the United States.
Photo of Florida's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park  / Text © 2012 Laura Martone
Laura Martone is Moon’s American Nomad  and the author of Moon Michigan , Moon Florida Keys , Moon Baja RV Camping , and the upcoming Moon New Orleans, which will be published in fall 2012.