Several times a year, a number of outdoor federal agencies open up their lands to the public for free. And November 9 through 11 -- Veterans Day Weekend -- is the last such opportunity in 2013. Below, figure out how to arrange your weekend.
Within the National Park Service, only a third of parks in the system charge an entrance fee in the first place, but California doesn't get off that easy. Cabrillo in San Diego, Joshua Tree and Death Valley in the desert, Sequoia and Yosemite in the Sierra Nevada, Pinnacles on the Central Coast, among others, all charge fees for entering -- even if you come by foot, bicycle, or horse. Come this weekend, those fees are waived.
All four Southern California national forests are waiving Adventure Pass fees. The only exception is the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area outside Santa Barbara in Los Padres National Forest.
But one great thing about waiving Adventure Passes is that three of the local forests have campgrounds where the Adventure Pass is the camping fee. All told, that's 50 free first come, first serve campsites that you can take advantage of.
- Angeles National Forest: Nine campgrounds will be free, most of them near the boundary with San Bernardino National Forest. Those are Apple Tree, Peavine, Blue Ridge, Guffy, Lupine, Sycamore Flat, South Fork, and Big Rock. And near Castaic Lake, Oak Flat Campground will be free.
- Los Padres National Forest: There are nearly 40 campgrounds, which can be found in this PDF. A number of them, however, are popular with the off-highway vehicle crowd (i.e., there might be a lot of motorcycles buzzing around). Those include Ballinger, Caballo, Marian, Colson, Friis, La Panza, and Buck Spring.
- Cleveland National Forest: Corral Canyon and Bobcat Meadow, both in the Corral Canyon area, which is popular, again, with off-roaders.
Last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to allow veterans and active duty military personnel into California state parks for free on Memorial and Veterans days -- not the full weekends -- but the bill will not go into effect until next year.
However, the three state parks that help make up Redwood National and State Parks will be free in conjunction with the federal mandate. That means fees at Gold Bluff Beach (access to Fern Canyon) in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and the day use area at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park will be waived.