How to Visit a National Park for Free This Weekend

It's National Park Week, a time to honor America's many outdoor parks and, according to the National Park Service, the country's largest celebration of national heritage. The perfect way to participate in this holiday is to step outside your front door and into a national park. Fortunately, every national park in the country will be free to visit on April 22 and April 23.

There are more than 400 national parks throughout the United States. For those that typically charge an entrance fee, that charge will be waived this weekend. The National Park Service provides a list of state parks that are waiving their fees, plus other dates throughout the year when you can enter parks for free.

[See: 12 Habits of Phenomenally Frugal Families.]

Want to take advantage of this excuse to enjoy the outdoors? There are plenty of ways you can keep the excursion cost low.

If you're meeting up with friends or family, carpool together and split the cost of gas. This keeps the travel cheap and cuts down on emissions, too. Make sure to pack plenty of supplies to last as long as you want to spend in the park, including a few reusable bottles filled with water, energy bars and fruit that doesn't require refrigeration, such as bananas or apples. If you're staying through mealtime, bring a cooler with ice packs and sandwiches. For a frugal snack, check out what items you already have in the house that would make good ingredients for a trail mix, such as pretzels, crackers, raisins and nuts. To sweeten up the mix, pick up a bag of discounted Easter candy and toss it in. Preparing plenty of snacks and beverages for your daytrip will ensure that you don't go too long without eating and blow too much money at a rest stop later on.

Depending on what park you visit, you may be able to take advantage of one of its free events. Many of the parks are hosting events this weekend, including group hikes, bike rides, nature demonstrations, yoga classes and cleanup days. Check out the website and social media pages of the park near you to see what's in store. The National Park Service created the hashtag #FindYourPark and website to give you access to tons of fun events and amazing local parks you may not know existed.

[See: 12 Frugal Ways to Save on Vacation.]

Since Earth Day also falls on April 22, helping to clean and preserve a national park would be the perfect way to celebrate. You could even host your own informal cleanup day and see how many of your friends you can get to join. Volunteering is a low-cost way to get exercise, bond with others and give back to the community. The National Park Service put together a guide to hosting your own events that promote the outdoors as a tool for improving health and wellness.

Here are a few notable events happening around the country this weekend:

Earth Day at Grand Canyon . Visitors can join in on a litter clean-up, recycled arts walk, recycled arts and crafts and fun games to celebrate Earth Day at one of the country's most revered landmarks. All the activities are free and open to the public, and will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 22.

Earth Day at Yosemite National Park. There are plenty of free activities planned in Yosemite National Park this weekend, including performances of an original play called "Shakespeare in Yosemite." The park will also host art activities, ranger-guided walks and educational volunteer projects.

Explore Everglades National Park. This national park in Florida has more than a million acres of land and endless possibilities for exploring. A few highlights this weekend include wildlife walks, canal biking, a crocodile and manatee talk and a meteor shower bike ride.

Park Rx Day at Golden Gate National Park. On April 23, Crissy Field in Golden Gate National Park will host one of the country's largest events to bring awareness to National ParkRx Day and showcase the health benefits of spending time outdoors. You can also join a family bike tour and bird-watching elsewhere in the park.

[See: 10 Fun, Frugal Ways to Spend Your Free Time.]

Use this weekend's holidays as an excuse to get outside and explore the national parks near you. Not only is it free, but you'll soak up the benefits that our country's natural treasures have to offer.

Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash-back website, which saves shoppers an average of $27 per order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 5,000 stores. Lal founded BeFrugal in 2009 with the mission to provide shoppers with maximum savings for minimum hassle. The company operates from its headquarters in Boston and serves customers globally. You can follow along with Lal on Twitter at @jon_lal.


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