Tyler Brown, left, joined his granddaughter Shiann and his daughter Amelia on a hike to Arches National Park's Double O Arch on Sunday, Feb. 8. If the three Mesa County, Colorado, residents are in the mood to come back this weekend, they can explore other trails inside the park for free. The National Park Service is waiving entrance fees at all national parks and monuments over the Presidents Day Weekend, which runs from Saturday, Feb. 14 through Monday, Feb. 16. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

No offense to science fiction scribe Robert Heinlein, but he was sorely mistaken when he said that nothing of value is free.

As a case in point, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees over the three-day holiday weekend at Arches and Canyonlands national parks, as well as Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments. Visitors and local residents alike are encouraged to take advantage of the free admission, Arches National Park Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services Mary Wilson said.

“It’s just a great time to connect or reconnect with these places – especially right now – the weather is going to be amazing,” she said.

Indeed, forecasters are predicting that daytime highs over the weekend will soar into the 60s.

With gorgeous weather on the horizon, Wilson is expecting visitation to pick up at Arches’ most popular attractions, including Delicate Arch, the Windows and the Devil’s Garden areas.

As a lesser-visited alternative, Wilson advises visitors to go on a family-friendly hike to Sand Dune and Broken arches.

“It’s a really diverse little hike that is not that long,” she said.

Visitors who aren’t intimidated by dirt roads can leave others behind them by heading off to Klondike Bluffs and Tower Arch in the park’s northwestern corner.

The 7.2-mile Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop is another backcountry option. It runs past the heavily visited Landscape Arch and takes hikers through a surreal world of arches and sandstone fins.

“There are some places on that trail that are not easy,” Wilson said. “That would be for the experienced hiker.”

When the sun goes down, Arches’ visitors can stay to watch meteor showers, or stare at the Milky Way.

South and west of Arches, Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky District offers visitors expansive daytime views in every direction.

Wilson recommends a scenic hike along the first section of the Lathrop Trail, which crosses a mostly flat meadow before it drops down precipitously to White Rim.

“You can make that a pretty easy five-mile loop,” she said.

Whale Rock is another great place to take in the sights around Island in the Sky.

“For kids and families, Whale Rock is a great little slickrock hike,” she said.

An hour and a half southwest of Moab, the park’s Needles District offers a wide range of hiking options, from rugged backcountry trails to short interpretive loops.

Visitor’s centers at both of Canyonlands’ main districts remain closed through early March, so Wilson advises prospective visitors to plan ahead.

If they’re in the mood for longer road trips, visitors can check out Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments southeast of Monticello, or Natural Bridges National Monument west of Blanding. All three sites are renowned for their combination of stunning geology and rich history.

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, as well as Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison national parks in Colorado, are all within an easy three- to four-hour drive of Moab. There are also a host of lesser-visited national monuments to choose from, including Colorado National Monument near Fruita, Colorado, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Chinle, Arizona.

For more information, go to www.nps.gov/arch, or www.nps.gov/cany.

It’s just a great time to connect or reconnect with these places – especially right now — the weather is going to be amazing.

What: National Park Service’s fee-free days

When: Saturday, Feb. 14 through Monday, Feb. 16

Where: National parks and monuments across the U.S.

Cost: Free entry; fees for camping, reservations, tours or other special uses remain in effect.

National parks waive entrance fees over Presidents Day Weekend