National Park Fee-Free Day is here, which means it’s the perfect weekend for visiting a national park and getting in some early autumn hiking. Every fourth Saturday of September the National Park Service and National Park Foundation celebrate National Public Lands Day, and what’s the best way to pay homage to the bountiful beauty of nature? By doing your part to keep it clean!
Seriously, the greatest National Parks in the country, like the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park are waiving their entrance fees this Saturday and providing volunteer opportunities like trail restoration, invasive plants removal, and general park cleanups. If you want to be a pal, you’ll participate and take a hands-on approach to keep our parks beautiful, but if not it’s all good, you can still take part in fee-free day. The moose, and deer, and other animals might give you some side-eye though.
If you’re considering making a weekend out of your trip, keep in mind that the fee-free day provides only entrance to the parks, regular amenities and extra activities like camping, boat launches, transportations, and special tours will be at their regular prices, so expect to spend some money.
Not sure where to go? We got you! Examining 13,000 votes on Ranker, we’ve put together a list of the current top ten best national parks in the United States. You can’t go wrong visiting any of the parks on this list, and if you’re looking for something more off the beaten path, we’ve got a list for that too.
Now get out there and pick up some trash!
10. Mount Rainier National Park, WA
Shout out to Washington State, home of the best smoked salmon in the country. While Olympic Park is the more diverse park in Washington and North Cascades is less-visited, Mount Rainier is still a classic park with a lot to offer.
The park’s centerpiece is, of course, the massive volcano that it takes its name from. A trip up to Paradise on the southern ridge is only two hours by car from SeaTac airport. You can stay in the old-school timber lodge with killer views of the volcano. Plus, Paradise gives you access to miles and miles of pristine alpine hikes that’ll take you to the edge of glaciers.
9. Arches National Park, UT
Arches National Park is Utah’s best-kept secret. The park gets about one-quarter the visitors of Zion National Park. And Arches is arguably the more unique spot.
We mean, it’s all in the name. There are massive stone arches formed from raging waters eons ago that make this place unlike any other in America. Plus, this is where the opening scenes for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the best Indy movie) were filmed, giving the place some extra cool Indy cred, if you’re into that sort of thing.
8. Sequoia National Park, CA
Sequoia National Park in Central California is the home of the Ancients. The tall trees are something everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. There’s a natural majesty to these forests that needs to be seen by your own eyes and felt deep in your soul.
The park is only 90 minutes from Fresno if you happen to be in the Central Valley chasing down some of California’s best tacos. Otherwise, you’re looking at a four-hour drive from either San Francisco (which has Redwood groves closer) or Los Angeles. Whichever way you get there, the drive into the forest it worth the extra miles for the experience of being in a forest older than even Christianity.