The National Park Service has five free entrance days this year and the next one is coming up Friday, Aug. 4 (Great American Outdoors Day).
The free admission days are designed to encourage discovery and visitation of the country’s variety of national parks. With at least one in every state, national parks are accessible places to visit to refresh body, mind and spirit.
We asked a few TDS associates from across the country to shared their national park recommendations. Here’s what they had to say:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
TDS associate Tom from Knoxville, Tennessee, said he enjoys the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“While I was born in Michigan and lived the first 36 years of my life there, my mother’s family was from East Tennessee. As a child we would come to visit relatives, and I always loved coming to Tennessee to see the beautiful mountains and all the wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountains offer so much beauty in the plants, wildlife and the many different outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, whitewater rapids, and so much more. This is why I truly enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains. Not to mention I am happy to be blessed with living where so much beauty abounds.”
Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
Colorado is home to 58 peaks that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level. At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak stands taller than all other summits in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Located in the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Longs Peak is a popular destination for climbers.
When Johnny Olivas, senior warehouse technician, first attempted to climb this prominent mountain, he made it to the start of the Keyhole Route to the summit before turning around due to incoming storms.
Although climbing may not be for everyone, there are plenty of roads that wind through the picturesque Rockies. “I highly recommend every visitor drive over Trail Ridge Road,” Johnny said. “It is the highest continuously paved road in North America, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet.”
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its unique sandstone hoodoos—irregular columns of towering red rock formed by erosion. Not technically a canyon, Bryce is a deep geological amphitheater excavated by thousands of years of weathering and erosion.
Sarah Reister, administrator of Order Management, often visits the park in southwestern Utah. “I love living in Utah because of the several national parks, but Bryce is beyond comparison,” she said. “It is other-worldly.”
According to Paul Fredrickson, senior business systems Analyst at TDS Corporate, “the best way to experience (Bryce Canyon) is to hike past the sign that reads ‘down is optional, up is mandatory’ and explore the bottom of the canyon.
Olympic National Park
Situated just south of the Canadian border, Olympic National Park is the largest park in Washington state. The park contains three unique ecosystems—the subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, the old-growth temperate forest, and the stunning Pacific coastline.
Lewis Clark, network consultant, first visited the park with his wife this past spring. “We heard a lot of great things about the park, and it did not disappoint,” he said.
“We really enjoy waterfalls and wild rivers, and there are plenty of those in the temperate rain forests of Olympic,” Lewis said. “We only explored a few of the many amazing places within Olympic, so now that we have seen the basics, our next visit will be longer and better planned.”
Recreational experiences at national parks can range from a relaxing picnic to a thrilling white-water adventure and everything in between, including walking, camping, fishing, stargazing, swimming and paddling. Programs at cultural sites and historical sites are also available at the National Parks. There are also many opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitats and see geological wonders.
To help plan your visits, visit NPS.gov or the NPS app. Online you can find tips to help you Plan Like a Park Ranger and Recreate Responsibly. It is important to know before you go what is open and available, especially if you are interested in staying overnight. There are maps, updated conditions and suggested activities to help you decide where to go and what to do. Regardless of activity, visitors should follow Leave No Trace principles.
The free entrance dates for 2023 are:
- Monday, Jan. 16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
- Saturday, April 22 (The start of National Park Week)
- Friday, Aug. 4 (Great American Outdoors Day)
- Saturday, Sept. 23 (National Public Lands Day)
- Saturday, Nov. 11 (Veterans Day)