Share Your Story contest: Win gift cards, park passes and more writing about your recent outdoor adventures

Jan 16, 2021

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Many U.S. residents have spent time rediscovering parks, trails and waterways in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, I visited several national parks and camped at multiple U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds in 2020. And I hope to enjoy the great outdoors even more in 2021.

If you’ve made memories on U.S. federal lands in 2020 or have plans to do so this spring, you may want to enter Recreation.gov’s Share Your Story contest. This contest encourages you to reflect on your recent outdoor adventures on federal lands and write about your experiences. You could win various prizes, including gift cards, annual federal lands passes and gear. Here’s what you need to know.

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Contest details

Springfield Campground
Springfield Campground in Anderson, SC is an Army Corps of Engineers campground (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

As might be implied by its name, this contest requires you to write about a recent outdoor adventure. Specifically, you’ll need to share a first-person story authored by you of between 900 and 4,500 characters.

Your story must be about one or more personal experiences that occurred between Jan. 1, 2020, and Apr. 30, 2021. And your experience must have happened on the lands or within the facilities of the following federal agencies:

  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • National Archives
  • NOAA Marine Sanctuaries

Many of these federal agencies have campsites, lodging, permits, tours and activities that are bookable on Recreation.gov. I discovered Recreation.gov in mid-2020 when I needed to make entry reservations for Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve subsequently used Recreation.gov to book multiple lakeside Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds.

When submitting your story, you’ll need to select one to six categories for your adventure. The options are as follows:

  • Traditions (old and new)
  • Reflection journeys
  • RV/Campervans
  • Family or group travel
  • Activities and adventure
  • Best time ever!

You must also submit one to three photos that capture a moment experienced in your story. Your image(s) must be from the same location and time as your story. And your photos should be JPG, JPEG or PNG format between 2MB and 10MB in size.

You’ll have until Apr. 30, 2021, to submit your story and photo(s) on the Share Your Story website. And you can submit up to two stories in this contest. However, by entering this contest, you give up rights to your submission. As such, I recommend reading the contest terms before submitting a story.

Related: 8 of the best national parks to visit during winter

Contest judging and eligibility

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park in summer (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Recreation.gov notes it is looking for “stories that touched your heart, made you laugh and created a memorable experience that will last a lifetime.” A panel of judges will judge stories. Specifically, the contest rules note that winners will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • The originality and creativity of the story
  • The clarity and organization of the composition
  • The content of the story and its appropriateness for the designated category
  • Whether the story showcases the best of America’s recreational opportunities

Each of these criteria will be weighted equally. But, in the case of a tie, the story that most effectively showcases America’s recreational opportunities will win.

To participate in this contest, you must be a legal U.S. resident who is at least 18 years old as of Jan. 4, 2020. Employees or volunteers of the participating agencies and sponsors (and their family members) are not eligible to enter.

Related: Exploring national parks in 2021: Where to stay using points

Contest awards and prizes

Sawnee Campground
Sawnee Campground in Cumming, GA is an Army Corps of Engineers campground (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

The Share Your Story contest will have 33 winning submissions. Except for monthly prizes, winners will be announced on May 15, 2021. Here’s what is at stake.

3 grand prize winners

A judging panel will choose the three grand prize winners from all eligible submissions. The grand prizes are as follows:

  • First grand prize: $2,500 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service
  • Second grand prize: $1,500 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service
  • Third grand prize: $1,000 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service

12 category winners

A judging panel will also select first and second prize winners for each story category. The prizes for each of the six categories are as follows:

  • Overall category first place: $300 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service
  • Overall category second place: $150 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service

8 monthly winners

Judges will also select a first prize and second prize winner from the eligible entries submitted each month (January, February, March and April) of the contest. These winners will be announced around the 15th of the month following the submission month. The prizes for each of the four months are as follows:

  • Monthly first place: $150 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service
  • Monthly second place: $100 REI gift card and one America the Beautiful annual pass from the National Park Service

10 honorable mention winners

Finally, a judging panel will select ten honorable mention stories that were noteworthy but didn’t win a first or second prize in any category. Writers of these stories will each win Recreation.gov branded gear worth about $21.

Related: 9 outdoorsy U.S. resorts perfect for a socially distant getaway

Bottom line

Recreation.gov’s Share Your Story contest is an excellent excuse to reflect on recent outdoor adventures you’ve had on U.S. federal public lands and hopefully win some great prizes. This contest might even be a catalyst to take a safe, socially distanced vacation. Even if you don’t win, writing up a story could be a fun evening or weekend activity.

Featured image of Grand Canyon National Park by Michael DeYoung/Getty Images.

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