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Free This Weekend: 30 Campsites in National Forests, Entry to National Parks

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A backpacker rests near Willett Hot Springs, which is about 10 miles from the Piedra Blanca trailhead in Los Padres National Forest.
A backpacker rests near Willett Hot Springs, which is about 10 miles from the Piedra Blanca trailhead in Los Padres National Forest.  | Photo: Zen Leprechaun/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Another national holiday, another reason to get outdoors and save a few bucks. Both the National Park Service and Forest Service are waiving fees this Presidents Day Weekend. Here's how it works.

National Parks

This is the second of six fee free events for the National Park Service this year (see the full list below), and as such, any park that usually charges an entrance fee will not Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. That goes for 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. But don't forget, some national park units in Southern California are always free: Santa Monica Mountains, Mojave National Preserve, and Channel Islands (where transit to the islands is not free).

National Forests

The four national forests in Southern California are waiving Adventure Pass requirements. And that means more than saving some money when parking since a few forests use them as a campsite fee, too. All told, that's over 30 first come, first serve campgrounds to take advantage of. Details are below, including information on waived fees for two other national forests popular with locals.

  • 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: See the info box to the right for the 22 campgrounds that will be free. (If you remember the 40 or so free sites listed for Veterans Day Weekend, the lower number reflects winter road closures in the Mount Pinos area.) Additionally, the following day use areas will be free: Ballinger OHV, Piedra Blanca Trailhead parking lot, La Cumbre Peak Day Use Area, Pino Alto Day Use Area. The Adventure Pass fee for the Lower Santa Ynez Recreation Area outside Santa Barbara will remain in place.
  • Cleveland National Forest: Campers at Corral Canyon and Bobcat Meadow, both in the Corral Canyon area, will not need an Adventure Pass to camp. Heads up, though: Both are popular with the off-roading crowd, so if peace and quiet is what you're looking for, look elsewhere.
  • San Bernardino National Forest: The Adventure Pass does not pay for any camping in this forest, but it won't be needed for parking.
  • Sequoia National Forest: Fees are waived for the Lower Coffee Camp Day Use Area on the Tule River and Upper Richbar Picnic Site on the Lower Kern River. Entrance station fees into the Hume Lake Ranger District will also be waived.
  • Inyo National Forest: Fees are collected in only three areas in this Eastern Sierra forest and two -- Reds Meadow and Shulman Grove -- are closed for the winter. Therefore, the fee to access South Tufa at Mono Lake will be waived.

The remaining fee-free weekends in 2014 are:

  • April 19-20: The opening of National Park Week (National Park Service units only)
  • June 14: National Get Outdoors Day (National Forests only)
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday (National Park Service units only)
  • September 27: National Public Lands Day (National Parks and National Forests)
  • November 8-11: Veterans Day Weekend (for National Forests all weekend, National Parks on the 11th only)

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