On Saturday, September 23, parks across the country will take part in National Public Lands Day, an annual event led and organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation. More than 400 National Park locations across the country will offer free admission to everyone and a variety of events. Given that most Americans live within a two-hour drive to a national park, this provides a great reason to head outdoors and enjoy the first whispers of fall.
National Public Lands Day celebrates and promotes the importance of public lands, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other protected areas. It was established in 1994 to encourage volunteerism, conservation, and community engagement with these natural spaces. In conjunction with the National Parks, the USDA Forest Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Land Management are waving their recreation or admission fees on September 23 as well.
“National parks are really amazing places, and we want everyone to experience them,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a press release. “The entrance fee-free days encourage people to discover the beauty, history, and inspiration awaiting them in more than 400 national parks throughout the country.”
National Public Land Days offers myriad ways to celebrate the beauty of the outdoors across various parks. There are 44 pages of events on the National Parks Service website. These include guided hikes, bird-watching expeditions, yoga sessions, pet-friendly picnics, and more. Plenty of volunteer opportunities are available as well. Visitors can help clean up any trash on the trails or work under the guidance of park experts to remove destructive, invasive plants. If you volunteer at certain parks, you’ll receive another free admission pass. That’s two entrances for the price of none.
So, add the date to your calendar, highlight a few events at the park closest to you, and decide where you’ll go and what you’ll do. To make the choice easier, you can use this definitive ranking of National Parks by crowdedness or this ranking of National Parks based on the amount of wildlife you can expect to see.
Whatever you choose, is there a better way to start the autumn season? We think not.
For more information on National Public Lands Day, check out the National Park Services.