Celebrate Great American Outdoors Day With Free Entry to Your Favorite National Park

The National Park Service (NPS) offers five days this year when visitors can enter any U.S. National Parks without paying admission fees. Two of those days have passed, but the next opportunity is knocking on the door.

August 4, 2023, is Great American Outdoors Day. It honors the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, which provides funding for infrastructure maintenance in the country’s national parks, public lands, and Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools. 

The NPS is waiving entrance fees for the day to promote outdoor recreation. It is essential to note that other expenses, such as camping fees and cabin rentals, still apply.

Events and Activities Across the Nation on Great American Outdoors Day

Many U.S. national parks will hold events during the day, including ranger talks, ranger-led walks, and activities for kids. Here is a sample of events across the nation.

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve in Glen Jean, West Virginia

America’s most recently established national park, New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, offers a two to three-mile hike covering easy to moderate terrain. 

A ranger will lead a talk at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. The topic changes daily but typically covers the park’s wildlife, plants, or mining history.

Coal towns surrounded the area years ago. However, Thurmond was a railroad town that saw trains roll through every 15 minutes in its prime. Now it is more like a ghost town. Guests can learn about its fascinating history on the Thurmond Walking Tour.

White Sands National Park in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Desert at Sunset
White Sands National Park. Photo credit: Stephen Leonardi

Visitors can join a park ranger on a 0.5-mile sunset stroll along the White Sands National Park’s snowy white dunes and watch the sands sparkle as the day comes to a close. Learn about the park and savor the beautiful vistas. Guests occasionally spot wildlife emerging to hunt for food during the sunset stroll.

Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, Washington

Boasting diverse ecosystems, Olympic National Park houses rugged coastlines, lush temperate rainforests, and glacier-capped mountains. The park hosts Terminus: A Glacier Memorial Project Exhibit on Great American Outdoors Day. Visitors can honor the park’s glaciers and learn about climate change through art. 

Guests can also embark on a ranger-guided walk through a stunning rainforest. The trail is level and can vary from half a mile to two miles depending on conditions and turnout.

Shenandoah National Park between Front Royal and Waynesboro, Virginia

The beautiful park along iconic Skyline Drive offers a multitude of events. Visitors can join a ranger-led meadow walk. The 1.0-mile walk takes guests along a rare high-elevation wetland meadow. 

A few different ranger talks are scheduled, including some about bears. Visitors can also tour the historic Massanutten Lodge, built in the early 1900s during the early days of Skyland. 

The park hosts the Loft Mountain Star Party in the evening, where everyone can savor night sky views.

Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona

A land of giant cacti, Saguaro National Park comprises two parks. Saguaro East, the Rincon Mountain District, hosts a 1.0-mile Walk Through Time, while Saguaro West, the Tucson Mountain District, holds a ranger talk, Living with Giants.

Saguaro East also presents Explore the Night, where guests take a twilight stroll as temperatures cool and night-prowling animals emerge. Visitors regularly observe bats during the walk. Occasionally, other animals are spotted.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

One of the most widely recognized natural landmarks in the United States, the Grand Canyon hosts several activities throughout the park. Children accompanied by an adult can join the Fossil Discovery Walk, where they will explore a fossil bed to explore marine creatures preserved in limestone for millions of years.

Various ranger programs are scheduled, including critter chats and geology talks. The park also offers surprise family-oriented programs where the topic is a mystery beforehand.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has Tennessee entrances in Gatlinburg and Townsend. Another entry sits in Cherokee, North Carolina. It is fitting that the park offers several unique events on Great American Outdoors Day. Most of the activities are family-friendly.

Visitors can watch a blacksmith demonstration, learn about the history of Appalachian music, wade in a cool mountain stream and look for aquatic critters, learn about a grist mill, take a ranger-led hike, or get the inside scoop on where to spot bears and elk.

Celebrate Great American Outdoors Day at Your Favorite National Park

With admission fees waived and so many planned activities and events across the country, Great American Outdoors Day is an excellent opportunity for travelers to visit a national park and admire some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.

This article originally appeared on Media Decision.

Featured image credit: Tim Depickere

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