Updated September 21, 2022. Enjoy the first full weekend of fall, and National Public Lands Day, by taking advantage of the National Park Service’s Free Entrance Day. These fee-free days throughout the year celebrate the Great American Outdoors Act, which is legislation that aims to offset increasing entrance fees by supporting the cost of repairs and maintenance.
With waterfalls, hiking trails, forests, and battlefields, you can celebrate in Northern Virginia and help bring attention to the importance of conserving national parks.
Great Falls Park (regular fee: $10-$20), part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, is waiving entrance fees. Take advantage of the waterfall overlooks, hiking, and picnicking beside the Potomac River as it flows through the Mather Gorge. This 800-acre park includes the Patowmack Canal, which is a look at our nation’s early days. 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean
Prince William National Forest (regular fee: $10-$20) was formerly a “relief camp” for low-income DC children. The park has 37 miles of hiking trails and a 9-mile scenic loop that’s drivable and bike-able, with lanes for cars and cyclists. Whether you want to pitch a tent or stay in a cabin, there’s plenty of space to enjoy a stay in the great outdoors. On Free Entrance Days, the $7 fee for vehicles (five-day pass) is waived. 18170 Park Entrance Rd., Triangle
Shenandoah National Park (regular fee: $15-$30) has beautiful hiking trails through the Shenandoah Mountains, and around Skyline Drive with views of the surrounding waterfalls. The hikes include the Stony Man Trail, Shenandoah’s second highest mountain; Rose River Loop, a scenic waterfall hike; Mary’s Rock, an Appalachian Trail hike; and Big Devil’s Stairs, a shorter, 5 1/2-mile hike.
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