National Public Lands Day

Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park via Pixabay

Mount Shuksan, North Cascades National Park via Pixabay

National Public Lands Day is held annually on the fourth Saturday of September and is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort to improve and restore the health of our public lands. This year, we celebrate America’s public lands on Saturday, September 30th.

Each year the National Environment Education Foundation coordinates National Public Lands Day, and for the 18th year in a row, Toyota will participate as the national corporate sponsor. Participating federal agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Support is also received federal, state, local and national organizations, as well as volunteers like you!

Not only is National Public Lands Day (NPLD) a great day to volunteer, it’s a great day to get out and explore. Better yet, it’s a fee-free day, where regular entrance fees are waived at national parks and other public lands!

What are public lands?
Public lands are just that, public lands! They are places where we live, learn, play, exercise and relax. They're what we use for outdoor recreation, education and enjoyment! Included in our public lands are our awe-inspiring national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, forests, grasslands, reservoirs, wildernesses, and parks managed by public agencies, and much more! For more information and a breakdown on the different types of public lands by, check out this post provided by the Department of the Interior.

Why do public lands matter?
Public lands matter because they belong to and are enjoyed by all! Nearly one-third of America’s land is public land and in order for us to continue to enjoy them, they must continue to thrive. By preserving these lands, we contribute to the health of the ecosystems and the habitats that make them up. Once they’re gone, there is no replacing them, so we must do our part to protect them!

How can you help?
There are a number of ways you can help protect our public lands, starting with volunteering this September 30th! There are a number of different National Public Lands Day events going on around the country where volunteers are needed! Volunteers can get out and enjoy these beautiful lands while helping restore and refurbish trails, plant trees, remove trash and invasive species, restore historic structures and more. Check here for a NPLD event near you!

For the remaining 364 days in the year, you can help preserve our public lands by practicing the “Leave No Trace Seven Principles” and encouraging others to do the same. These principles provide guidance for how to enjoy our natural resources in a way that prevents human-created impacts. For more detailed information on the principles below, check out the Leave No Trace website.

Leave No Trace Seven Principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

What’s needed when visiting?
It is so easy to visit any one of America’s public lands! With over 400 national park sites, more than 500 wildlife refuges, and nearly 250 million acres of other public lands, there’s at least one near you no matter your location. We highly encourage a visit!

When visiting, please be mindful of the “Leave No Trace Seven Principles” and be aware of any fees and/or permits associated with these visits. While not all public lands require a fee, fees that are collected go towards park efforts including maintenance, restoration and other repairs. Fees vary by location and type (park, national forest, beaches, etc.) so it’s important to check ahead of time when visiting a destination, however we’ve found the Interagency Annual Pass to be the best bang for your buck.

There are six agencies that participate in this program (National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and it is accepted at over 2,000 recreation sites in the nation! The Interagency Annual Pass will run you $80, but it’s worth every penny if you plan on using these lands often, as day-use fees can add up just as quickly. For more information, check out this website.

There are also several fee-free days at participating public lands! We recommend checking ahead before you go, as some of the fee-free days vary among agencies. A full list of of all agency fee-free days can be found here, and the dates for the National Park Service can be found below:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February 20: Presidents Day
  • April 15-16 and April 22-23: The weekends of National Park Week
  • August 25-28: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

National Parks of the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is home to many parks, wildernesses, national forests and other public lands, allowing for endless outdoor activity and adventure. Among those, we are lucky to have four national parks right in our back yard!

Crater Lake, Oregon: Set atop the Cascade Mountain Range, Crater Lake is a sight to behold! One of the most pristine lakes on Earth, and the deepest in the United States, Crater Lake measures at 1,943 feet at its deepest and is fed only by rain and snow. This natural wonder was created nearly 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama, standing then at 12,000 feet, collapsed after a major eruption. The lake only takes up roughly 10% of the entire park, making for endless exploration. This national park has two developed campgrounds and two lodging facilities, typically accessible May-October. Single vehicle fees are $15 per vehicle allowing access up to seven days. For additional information, visit their website

Mount Rainier, Washington: An icon in Washington state’s landscape, Mount Rainier stands 14,410 feet above sea level. Mount Rainier is an active volcano and is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, spawning six river systems. This park has five developed areas, each area offering a different level of development ranging from basic (campground and picnic area) to extensive (hotel, restaurant and visitor center) serving as a great base for exploring the rest of the park. The snow capped mountains, wildflower fields and abundant hiking trails are a must-visit if you’re in Washington. Single vehicle fees are $25 per vehicle and offer park access for seven consecutive days. Visit their website for additional park information.

North Cascades, Washington: “The North Cascades are Calling!” Located less than three hours from Seattle is the beautiful alpine landscape of North Cascades National Park. With jagged peaks, cascading waterfalls, and over 300 glaciers, this park is home to grizzly bears, gray wolves and over 200 bird species, and the remote community of Stehekin. Overnight accommodations range from car-camping to resorts and lodges, some accessible by vehicles, some by boat! If you’re visiting Washington, you won’t want to miss this beautiful park. And guess what? There is no entrance fee to North Cascades National Park! For more information, check out their website.

Olympic, Washington: Washington’s Olympic National Park is the epitome of diversity. Spanning nearly one million acres, this park includes several unique ecosystems including snow-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rainforests, and over 70 miles of coastline, with endless opportunity for adventure and activity in each diverse location. From day trips, to camping, and resort style accommodations, Olympic National Park is a must-visit any time of the year! Single vehicle fees are $15 per vehicle allowing access up to seven days. Visit their website for additional information.