You can go to a national park for free this weekend.
In celebration of Veteran’s Day, all visitors can tour Canyonlands and Arches national parks from Nov. 10 to 12 without having to pay an entrance fee.
“It used to be one day,” said Mary Wilson, chief of visitor services at both Canyonlands and Arches national parks. “Over the last few years it has stretched over the weekend.”
However, she encouraged people living in the area to purchase an annual pass once they get to the park.
“If you’re a local, it is a good bargain,” she said.
An annual pass is $80 and can be used at more than 2000 federal recreation sites. A $10 lifetime pass is available to seniors age 62 and older.
Arches National Park is a quick get-away from Moab. The entrance is only five miles from town.
“There are lot of places for short hikes and picture taking,” Wilson said.
If there is a shuttle driver, hikers can make a one-mile gradual descent down Park Avenue to Courthouse Wash. The Windows District has several short hikes to arches like Turret, North Window, South Window and Double Arch.
For those wanting a little longer hike there is Delicate Arch, which is a 3-mile round trip and an approximately 500 foot climb.
She said there is a tendency for several people to show up on free entrance days, so going in the morning may be a way to avoid the crowds.
“The earlier you go the better,” she said.
She also encouraged stopping by the visitor’s center to check on any ranger led activities. If you have children in attendance you may want to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet. If the child is able to complete the necessary activities while in the park, the child may earn a Junior Ranger badge.
“Canyonlands is a different kind of park,” Wilson said. “It is a wilderness kind of park.”
Canyonlands National Park is divided into three districts that are separated by the Colorado and Green rivers.
While visitors can take a leisurely drive through Arches, traveling to one of the districts in Canyonlands may take more of a commitment.
The drives to the park are longer.
Island in the Sky is 40 miles from town and Needles is 80 miles. It takes a few hours to get to The Maze, which is 134 miles away. The final 46 miles are on a dirt road.
“Needles has longer and more extensive hiking, but you can make short little hike out of them,” Wilson said. “When you get down there, there is no place to buy food. Folks should come prepared.”
There are a few short hikes, including Cave Spring Trail, Pothole Point Trail, and Roadside Ruin Trail. There is also Slickrock Trail, which is a 2.4 mile hiking trail near Big Spring Overlook. There are several viewpoints. Hikers may also see bighorn sheep.
Island in the Sky has several short hikes.
One of the easiest hikes in Island in the Sky is Mesa Arch, which is about a half-mile round trip. It is considered a great sunrise hike. Upheaval Dome Overlook Trail is a mile long, hiking to the second overlook adds another mile.
Several of the hikes in the Island in the Sky District drop off the rim.
“Anything that drops off the rim is tough,” she said. “There are big elevation drops.”
Syncline Loop is an 8-mile round trip that begins at the Upheaval Dome trailhead. A spur trail provides access to the center of Upheaval Dome’s crater. The elevation change is about 1300 feet.
Wilson strongly recommended that visitors should bring food, as none is sold in the parks.
“It’s still warm: Take lots of water, sunscreen and hat,” she said.
She also reminded that there is a regulation: No pets on trails.
“Don’t leave pets in your cars. It may only be 65 or 70 degrees, but it can get too hot in the car,” she said.