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Kristi Parsons | 03.28.2019

To kick off National Park Week and in celebration of Earth Day, the National Park Service will offer free admission to everyone at all National Park Service units. Fee-free day is an excellent opportunity to save some cash and explore some of America’s most beautiful places.

If you live in the southeastern part of the country or plan on visiting the area on April 20, check out the following places, many of them under the radar, and a few tips to make the most of your trip!

 


Dry Tortugas is among few national parks ideal for snorkeling. Daniel Sherman.

Dry Tortugas National Park

If the beginning of spring has you dreaming of a spot where it’s always 5 o’clock and hammock time is a must, you’ll want to travel farther south! Seventy miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park. Spend the day exploring the history of Fort Jefferson, snorkeling, boating, and swimming in the pristine waters that surround Dry Tortugas.

 


Dungeness Ruins, in Cumberland Island National Seashore, memorialized the Georgia retreat of Thomas Carnegie. Jon Dawson/Flickr Creative Commons.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Down where the peaches grow, you’ll find Cumberland Island National Seashore just off Georgia’s coast. Feral horses wander among the ruins of a former Carnegie mansion and underneath gnarled oaks covered in Spanish moss. Bike along the island, take a walk along the waves, and take in the day on one of our stunning national treasures.

 


The summit of Stony Man, the second tallest peak in Shenandoah. Seth Rose.

Shenandoah National Park

In the state of Virginia you’ll find Shenandoah National Park tucked away along the Blue Ridge Mountains. With numerous opportunities for adventure, you’ll find something for everyone. Hiking, wildlife viewing, the Appalachian Trail, views, waterfalls, and beautiful rocky peaks. Park visitors in Shenandoah for fee-free day will want to take a minute to check out Marys Rock, Stony Man, and the Hawksbill summit loop.

 


Serene waterfalls characterize the trails above-ground at Mammoth Caves. Aaron Shady.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Neighbors to the west in Kentucky will have the opportunity to put their entrance fees toward one of the many in-depth tours offered by Mammoth Cave National Park, home of the longest cave system in the world. Expect it to be busy. If you don't want to wait, there are other ways to enjoy the park for free. Take a hike on the Buffalo Creek and Sal Hollow Trail, the Cedar Sink Trail, or spend time on the water, paddling the Green River.

Before You Go

  • Some parks are only accessible by ferry or have tours that need to be reserved ahead of time. Be sure to research your selected spot before you arrive. A few moments of planning will save you time once you arrive and allow you to have a much better experience.
  • Arrive early. Not everyone is a morning person, but even if you’re not it will be worth sacrificing a few hours of sleep to beat the crowds and have a chance to explore more thoroughly.
  • Seek out the hidden gems. Take time to read over Outdoor Project adventures, research online, and ask around about the places you plan to explore. Even the most crowded national parks still have plenty of tranquility that can be found in spots that are just a tad bit hidden.
  • Be prepared and comfortable. Pack a picnic, first-aid kit, a park map, and other items that you may need. Dress to play! A blister or a fall from wearing the wrong footwear can easily destroy what could have been an epic trip.
  • Make it a habit! Should you love the experience, consider buying an Interagency Annual Pass for $80. Visiting a national park three times in 12 months more than pays for it!

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