The busy summer season is winding down at national parks, but locals and tourists might be encouraged to make a visit to Arches or Canyonlands on Veteran’s Day. Fees will be waived on Nov. 11 in honor of the holiday.
“National parks connect all of us with our country’s amazing nature, culture and history,” said Michael Reynolds, National Park Service deputy director, in a press release announcing the 2018 fee free dates. “The days that we designate as fee free for national parks mark opportunities for the public to participate in service projects, enjoy ranger-led programs, or just spend time with family and friends exploring these diverse and special places. We hope that these fee free days offer visitors an extra incentive to enjoy their national parks in 2018.”
Active members of the military can obtain a free National Parks Pass at any time of the year, but there is usually no discount specifically for veterans. Veteran’s Day will be the last fee free day in 2018.
Karen Garthwait, chief of interpretation and visitor services at Arches and Canyonlands national parks, said that the parks sometimes use fee free days to host volunteer events. For example, on Sept. 22, which was Public Lands Day and a fee free day, Arches National Park sponsored a volunteer cleanup of the Mill Creek Parkway. No events are planned for Veteran’s Day.
“We generally don’t see increased visitation specifically because of the fee free days,” Garthwait said. “More often than not, visitors that arrive on a fee free day are surprised to find out.”
Fee free days are announced at the beginning of the year and posted on national park websites, but that doesn’t seem to be attracting visitors’ attention. People who do show up to the parks on fee free days may be glad that they’re not more aggressively advertised.
Arches National Park in particular has made news in recent years for its increased visitation. Iconic images of Delicate Arch and Balanced Rock, as well as increased promotion of the Moab area, have brought unprecedented numbers of tourists. The park’s popularity has caused traffic congestion and parking scarcity that have spilled over from the park and into Moab, prompting the installation of a new traffic light at the park’s entrance last year and plans to build parking structures in Moab. However, Garthwait said the parks tend to slow down in the fall.
“The Veteran’s Day holiday itself isn’t really a big holiday for Moab,” she said. “We’re kind of past those at this point. UEA [Utah Education Association] weekend is the last really big weekend, typically, that we see, in terms of spikes in visitation.”
UEA weekend, which was in mid-October, is when Utah schools have their fall break.
Garthwait continued, “Now we’re approaching the calm season, and starting to plan for big visitation weekends that come in the spring. That being said, if we have a warm winter, the holidays themselves can see an uptick in visitation. But only an uptick compared to the typically quiet days of the fall.”
Veteran’s Day park visitors will see a double benefit — no fees and no crowds as they enjoy the colors of the changing leaves against red rock formations and grand vistas in Arches or Canyonlands national parks.
Arches and Canyonlands do not expect a spike in visitation
Where: All national parks, including Arches and Canyonlands
When: Sunday, Nov. 11
Info: Search “fee free” at nps.gov
“National parks connect all of us with our country’s amazing nature, culture and history.”