The beautiful fall foliage is here. And so is a free day at the national parks. In celebration of National Public Lands Day, all sites maintained by the National Park Service (NPS) are free this Saturday. More than 120 sites usually charge fees ranging from $5 to 35.
“National Public Lands Day is special because it provides all lovers of the environment — old and new — an opportunity to show our appreciation for these unique places,” said the NPS on its website.
We always like to remind people that free days are a great way to see the more expensive parks. But, there will be a crowd. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the parks have been seeing record numbers of visitors — even on days when you do have to pay. While the discount might be a deciding factor for you, it’s important to remember the crowd when planning your day.
One reason you may be enticed to head to the parks despite the crowds is “leaf peeping.” The fall season has officially begun, and the leaves are at their most beautiful in some areas. Many people agree that the best national park for leaf peeping, the practice of looking at and photographing fall foliage, is Acadia.
Acadia offers visitors different experiences, from longer, more involved hikes, to gentle walks, to horse-drawn carriage rides or car drives. On normal days, it costs $30 to bring a car into the park. Even if you go in on foot, there is still a $15 fee. This weekend, you can avoid the fee and view the leaves at their best. The fall colors are at their peak right now in the park, but they should continue to be stunning throughout October, so you won’t miss out if you head there in the next few weeks.
It’s unsurprising that Acadia is considered the best park for leaf peeping. It’s the only national park in New England. New England is widely agreed to be the best area for fall colors. Moreover, the park has gorgeous mountains covered in forests skirting the coastline. That makes for views of fiery red, yellow and orange leaves against the blue water and sky.
We’re big fans of hiking in the fall. You don’t get as sweaty, and you can enjoy the great outdoors with fewer bugs. But, if hiking isn’t your speed or you want to see as many views as possible, one of the best ways to view the changing leaves is by driving the 27-mile loop road that begins at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. There are overlooks and viewpoints to stop at to see everything, so you won’t speed by all the incredible sights!
This Saturday, go to the national parks and enjoy one of the pricier ones for free. Acadia might be the best, but it’s not the only beautiful place to visit! You can go to one that’s always free just to take in the fall sights — it will probably be quieter! However you decide to spend your weekend, we hope you get outdoors as the weather is cooling off and fall is in the air.