National parks are meant to preserve and protect America’s most remarkable places for generations to come, but at the 115 parks that charge a fee, the price of entry can make them feel inaccessible for many. On fee-free days, however, the NPS goes gratis, waiving admission across the country.
“Fee-free days are always incredibly popular,” says Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, the NPS’s affiliate charity. “They inspire people to not only visit parks in their own backyard, but also perhaps venture out a bit further to a park they’ve never been to before.”
The second of these free days falls on Saturday, April 20th, the first day of National Park Week. Skip the crowds and find your own little bit of solitude with the list below.
Pinnacles National Park: High Peaks Trail
Spring is the perfect time to visit California’s newest national park: wildflowers are still blooming, the sun is shining, and the temperatures aren’t yet too hot. The park gets its name from jagged volcanic rock formations that scientists estimate first formed 22 to 23 million years ago near modern-day LA, then moved north with the slips of the San Andreas Fault. Get up close and personal with the ancient rocky spires on the High Peaks Trail, which ascends 1,300 feet from the Bear Gulch Day Use Area. Walk southeast from the parking area, then follow the trail north up into the aptly-named Steep and Narrow section. Continue along the High Peaks Trail, descending to the intersection with the Bench Trail. Follow this south until you reach the Bear Gulch Trail, which will take you back to the starting point for a 6.7-mile loop.