Fee-free days make the outdoors affordable

The Daily Times staff
Ancestral Puebloan people settled in villages throughout the Four Corners, such as this one at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, between 500 and 1400.

FARMINGTON — If you’re looking to both save money and get outside more in 2016, you may want to jot down a few dates in your calendar.

For starters, the National Park Service, Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department and U.S. Bureau of Land Management will waive entrance fees at their sites on Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The National Park Service sets aside days each year to waive fees, often basing them around holidays or commemorative events. But, this year, in honor of its centennial anniversary, the park service is waiving entrance fees at its sites on 16 days.

There is no admission fee to enter Hovenweep National Monument in Utah, which is under the stewardship of the National Park Service.

In addition to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, fees will be waived during National Park Week from April 16 to 24; the service’s centennial anniversary weekend Aug. 25 to 28; National Public Lands Day on Sept. 24; and Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

That means people visiting sites like Aztec Ruins National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado won’t have to pay entrance fees on those days. Hovenweep National Monument in Utah and Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona, both nearby Four Corners sites managed by the park service, never charge entrance fees.

On typical days, 127 of the 409 park service sites in the country charge entrance fees ranging from $3 to $30, according to a department press release.

To further commemorate its 100-year milestone, the park service has launched a campaign called “Find Your Park” that encourages people to learn more about the parks in their areas.

Antelope Canyon is among the sites managed by the Nation Nation Parks and Recreation Department that will not charge entrance fees on Martin King Luther Jr. Day.

Also on Monday, the Navajo Nation parks department will waive entrance fees at all tribal sites, including Four Corners Monument, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Lake Powell Tribal Park-Antelope Canyon, the Little Colorado River Gorge, Window Rock Tribal Park and the Camp Asááyi area.

Another thing to keep in mind is many public lands in the Four Corners are completely free to visitors year-round.

There are no entrance fees for public lands under the stewardship of the Farmington field office of BLM. And all of the local sites are open to visitors during the entire year, though certain access roads can become impassible after inclement weather.

That means many popular local spots — Alien Run Mountain Bike Trail, Angel Peak Scenic Area, Bisti/ De-Na-Zin Wilderness area and the Dunes Vehicle and Glade Run recreation areas — are completely free whenever you want to enjoy them.

Angel Peak Recreation Area, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is accessible for free all year long.

The homesteads in Largo Canyon, the defensive Dinétah sites, Simon Canyon and the petroglyphs at Crow Canyon can also all be accessed at no cost.

A small number of BLM lands do charge a day-use fee, such as the Santa Cruz Lake Recreation Area in New Mexico, for example.

Those fees will be waived this year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Feb. 13 to 15; National Public Lands Day on Sept. 24; and Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

Most forests and grasslands that the U.S. Forest Service manages, such as the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado, can be accessed for no cost, though permits are required for certain uses.

Entrance fees will be waived at Monument Valley Tribal Park on Martin King Luther Jr. Day.