National Parks go fee-free for Veterans Day weekend

It's another fee-free weekend in the national parksIn honor of Veterans Day, the National Park Service has declared another fee-free weekend. Starting tomorrow, and running through Sunday, all entry fees into America’s national parks will be waived, giving travelers the opportunity to enjoy the crisp fall weather in some of the most spectacular landscapes the country has to offer.

While the fall colors in many of the parks have come and gone, there are still some places where the reds, oranges, and golds of autumn can still be spotted. Particularly at the lower altitudes in Yosemite and near the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. The cooler weather also makes it the perfect time to take a long hike or go camping one final time before winter sets in. It is also a great time to spot wildlife in places like Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park, where the change in seasons puts the elk and sheep on the move.

This is the final fee-free weekend of 2011, so take advantage of it if you can. But if you aren’t able to make it out to your favorite park over the next few days, don’t worry too much. The Park Service has already announced 17 more free days for 2012, with the first of those coming January 14-16 in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

For a complete list of the parks that will be participating this weekend, click here.

National Public Lands Day: enter a park for free and volunteer

Maybe you took advantage of one of the fee-free weekends at a national park this summer? That was for 147 parks. Here’s a free day that’s valid at all 391 national parks.

National Public Lands Day is on Saturday, September 26th.

It’s not just a time to get into a park for free, but it’s a time to participate, if you can. Organizers of the event hope to honor the parks with both celebration and service. Volunteer activities and festivities will be specially tailored for each of the parks.

The reward for your troubles if you volunteer? A sneak preview of Ken Burns’ new documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

A few of the special events of the day:

Minute Man National Historic Park
(Massachusetts): Celebrate its 50th anniversary as a national park on the same day. Recently rehabilitated buildings will be open to the public for the first time.

George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri): Volunteer with others to remove invasive exotic plants in the park’s woodlands and prairie.

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado): Build a new connector trail along the Continental Divide between the park and U.S. Forest Service lands. Local musicians will perform music from the Ken Burns’ movie.

Catch a fee-free weekend at your favorite national park this summer

Have you hugged a national park lately? Go on, we’ll wait.

(Actually, with state parks in California potentially closing because of the budget crisis, they could use a bit of love, too.)

When you give the love and visit a national park on one of the fee-free weekends this summer, you get it back. That’s when fees will be waived at the 147 national parks that normally charge entrance fees.

The weekends that you’ll want to mark on your calendar are:
• June 20-21, 2009 (Father’s Day weekend)
• July 18-19, 2009
• August 15-16, 2009

Just a few of the national parks that are included: Grand Canyon (Arizona), Bryce and Zion (Utah), Yosemite (California), Haleakala (Hawaii), Yellowstone (Montana/Wyoming), Glacier (Montana), Grand Teton (Wyoming), and Acadia (Maine).

You might have to face a few extra people, but I think these fee-free days bring the parks back to the people, don’t you? And they’re good reminders of what’s at our disposal here in the U.S.

What’s free during the fee-free weekends are entrance fees (usually ranging from $3-25), commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. You’ll still have to pay for things like camping and concessions.

In addition to the waived fees, concessioners at many of these national parks are also offering special discounts at gift shops, restaurants, and tour operators.