18 Arizona Parks and Monuments to Visit on Free National Parks Day
Andrew Pielage They don't call us "The Grand Canyon State" for nothing.
Oh America, the beautiful.
When President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill that created The National Park Service, it read in part, "[...] and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Almost a century later, national parks and monuments continue to do just that, boasting everything from impressive natural made wonders to the ruins of peoples past. Monday, August 25, is the 88th birthday of The National Park Service, and they're celebrating this milestone with a party of sorts -- Free National Parks Day -- and everyone's invited.
See also: 5 Places to Visit in Arizona
At last count, 401 areas have been assigned national park status across the country -- including everything from wildlife refuges to forests to recreation areas. Approximately 133 of these federal lands charge entrance fees, be it for individuals or motor vehicles. During fee-free days entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees are all waived. However, camping, third-party tours, concessions, and certain reservation fees may still apply at the park's discretion.
Beyond Arizona's state parks, plenty of designated national parks, monuments, and recreation areas are scattered from the Four Corners northeast to the deep Southwest, offering something for everyone. Aside from The Big Three (more information below), our aptly-nicknamed Grand Canyon State boasts five times as many monuments. All are included in this fee-free birthday celebration.
Grand Canyon National Park
It would be impossible to create this list without the grandest of them all. Arizona is home to the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the most popular parks in the country. Despite closures last year, the natural attraction drew four and a half million tourists last year and generated approximately $475,000,000 in visitor spending.
Open year-round, the South Rim is about an hour and a half away from Williams and Flagstaff, while the North Rim, the less traveled but equally breathtaking area, is located in a more remote area on the "Utah" side of the canyon. Drive up for a day trip, an overnight excursion, or a multi-day descent into the canyon, but be sure to give yourself a few hours minimum to explore the rims alone. Guided tours, mule trips, and river trips are all popular events, so plan accordingly.
Saguaro National Park
Talk about the Southwest or desert to just about anyone worldwide and they'll come back with one chief descriptor: cacti. The spiny vegetation is synonymous with our state, and Saguaro National Park just outside Tucson is a place to see them in all shapes and sizes. Tours are available for hikers, bikers, and drivers led by rangers. The park is separated into an east sphere and a west sphere 45 minutes apart (Tucson sits in the middle), so plan ahead if you want to tackle both.