National Park Week: Free Entry

Enjoy a springtime stretch in some of our country's most beautiful wild places.

MEMORIES, PHOTOS, ADVENTURE: The gifts of the national parks are many, from those that grow our knowledge to those that embolden our spirits. The knowledge growth side concerns those lessons that delve into the science side of what we're seeing in a park (the geology of the rocks, what makes tree bark rough, why squirrels hoard acorns) while the more intangible, but completely captivating, gifts we depart with are a bit harder to describe. We don't hold these gifts in our pocket -- leave only footprints, take only photographs being the guiding wisdom of every park visit -- but rather in our memories, our hearts, our heads, and, yes, our phones. Remembering a sweet breeze, or a perfect sunrise, or a frog you saw in the river, are all, ultimately free, and they're gifts to keep forever (you'll never toss them in the "to go" bin). It is quite fitting and lovely, then, to enjoy a park when it, too, is free. Oh, the majority of the parks and monuments and sites under the National Park Service umbrella are usually free, around the clock/calendar, but those 127 parks that do have an admission fee periodically kiss it goodbye, all to celebrate something major. And the most major of the free-day runs is just ahead, in the middle of April, when the fee-charging national parks waive the gate admission for a full...

NINE DAYS: That's a week-plus of no-money-spending at the entrance of your favorite national park, and it is all in honor of National Park Week. Take a look at all of the haps going down from Saturday, April 16 through Sunday, April 24, and find your go-to destination to connect with a waterfall or a grove of trees or the grand face of a granite mountain. If you noted that Earth Day falls within that date span, you'd be correct, and you'd also be correct if you guessed that several parks will host volunteer efforts on the day, the better to spiffy up nature. However you approach the week-plus of free days, keep in mind that this is indeed the longest run on the NPS calendar where gratis get-ins are concerned; most other national park-y free days solely fall on a single date. Also keep in mind that this is the service's big centennial year, so you're bound to see celebrations around the parks in honor of its happy 100th.

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