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5 free things to do in National Parks this weekend

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 9:57am


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SALT LAKE CITY — Sunday marks the 97th anniversary of the National Park Service, and to celebrate, park entrance fees will be waived.

Created on Aug. 25, 1916, the NPS serves to protect and preserve naturally and historically significant areas, as well as educate people about the land or events.

If you have an itch to visit a park, but don’t want to pay the fee, Sunday, NPS is waiving the entrance fees for parks across the country, including those in Utah. Catch an anniversary commemoration or just enjoy a day in the park with these suggestions.

Cedar Breaks

At the Stories of the Past Festival in Cedar Breaks, visitors can learn about indigenous cultures, like the Southern Paiutes, and celebrate the park’s 80th anniversary with a slice of cake. Dessert will be served at 12 p.m. after a reading of the proclamation establishing Cedar Breaks as a national monument.

Finish the visit with an evening program at the Point Supreme Campground. Visitors will learn about those who discovered and lived in Cedar Breaks. Check the visitor’s center for program topics. Programs start at 9 p.m.

Capitol Reef

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There is so much to do in and around Capitol Reef, you might find yourself wanting to spend more than a day in the area. Take advantage of the park ranger programs and learn something on Sunday.

Every day, visitors can catch a geology talk at the visitor’s center at 10 a.m., a Fremont culture talk at the petroglyph panel at 3 p.m., and on the weekends, an evening program at the campground amphitheater will teach you about a variety of topics. Find out Sunday night’s topic at the visitor’s center. At the historic Gifford homestead, you’ll see some green and learn about the early Mormon settlement of the Fruita Valley.

If you have time, drive to (or from, depending which direction you’re headed) Capitol Reef through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on state Route 12, for which there is not a fee. Plan ahead, as this scenic byway is the really long way for most.

Double Arch in Arches National Park (Photo: National Parks Service)

Zion

Any day you can sneak in a trip to Zion National Park is a good day. The park has many great day activities, like many of the short hikes and walks. For the adventurous with half a day to spare, Angel’s Landing offers spectacular views of the park.

Finish off your visit with a venture into the Kolob Canyons, the less frequented wilderness area portion of Zion. Whether you just drive through and take in the views, or get out and hike, Kolob makes a nice drive up north.

Arches

Arches has many hikes, four of which you can fit in two hours, and three more you can complete in half a day that take you to various natural sandstone arches.

While you’re there, check out the art prints from the Community Artist Program, by artist-in-residence Sarah Hamingson. Each year, the National Park Service Southeast Utah Group chooses a local artist to highlight as they create parks-inspired art and interact with visitors.

To honor the anniversary of the National Parks Service, Arches will have a display at their visitor’s center about the history of the park.

Bryce Canyon

Utah’s borders encompass many interesting and inspiring geology, but Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos may be the most unique and otherworldly. Move downward on the Navajo Loop and view them from the bottom up for some real perspective. The short but busy hike takes you down a switchback trail to the bottom of the cliffs, makes a long U-turn and moves you upwards through a second set of switchbacks back to the top.

If you’re feeling up for another walk, let a ranger guide you around the rim from Sunset Point as they tell you about the wildlife, cultural history and geology of Bryce.

Stick around through the evening for one of the excellent evening programs. The visitor’s center has the details on daily topics, start times and locations.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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