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  • Writer's pictureJamie R.

National Park News: January 2021

One month down, 11 more to go! Check out all the important changes coming to an outdoors near you.

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

Recent news updates going on in the world of the Outdoors that could impact your future travel plans.


All National Parks will be waiving their entrance fees on five days throughout the year. This has been a recent addition via Secretary Orders 3386 and 3387. The free entrance dates for the public are as follows:

The same orders granted waived admission to 5th graders during the 2020-21 school year. All Veterans and Gold Star families have free admission for as long as these orders are valid as well.

This would be a great time to check out Pathloom’s Top 5 National Parks To Visit In 2021! Prepare for high traffic and potential wait times, given these days have fees waived and most people are off work or out of school.

Be sure to look up other National Parks you’re interested in visiting, because they may offer free admission days in addition to those offered by this program. For example, Shenandoah National Park celebrates Neighbor Appreciation Day on Saturday, June 19, by offering free admission to all visitors.


Rocky Mountain National Park, CO - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

Beginning on March 1st, wilderness campsite reservations at Rocky Mountain National Park will only be open to booking online. The Wilderness Offices in the park announced they will not be accepting any in-person, phone, email or faxed reservations due to COVID-19 guidance. The link to book your campsite will go live at 8am MST on March 1st (the reservation system as a whole will not be available prior to that date and time).

This is a much more convenient way to reserve campsites, compared to the former lottery system they had in place in years prior. Once you reach the magnificent Rocky Mountains, this will make it much more convenient to be able to head to your spot and get settled down before you start exploring. In some areas certain permits are needed, so be sure to research how to obtain a backcountry permit while planning out your trip. Have a look at more information on Rocky Mountain National Park and their camping guidelines before you book your online reservation and begin your journey!


Joshua Tree National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan

Joshua Tree is another stop on Pathloom’s Top 5 National Parks to Visit in 2021. The annual attendance of Joshua Tree has almost tripled within the last five years, resulting in lengthy waiting periods for park entry. Park rangers have announced they now offer digital passes that can be purchased online in hopes of reducing the extended wait times for entry. As a friendly reminder: There is no cell service or wifi once you’re in the park. For this reason, try having your pass accessible on a digital wallet or printed out in advance (Maybe even both, just to be safe).


Mount Rainier, WA - Photo Credit: Vlada Karpovich

In the early days of January, many public outdoors spaces have seen especially high activity from visitors. Park rangers have put together a list of reminders on best practices while visiting busy areas in their parks, and these apply just as well to any outdoors space.

  1. Stay on the trail. When venturing into the outdoors, it’s crucial to keep in mind that trails are present for a reason. They will help guide you to your ideal destination, and do so in the safest way possible. When walking off the designated paths, you’re risking yourself and the environment. There may be sensitive wildlife around that are best left undisturbed.

  2. Avoid peak times. Ending your day with a beautiful sunset can create a stunning panoramic image, but there have been high numbers of people checking out these views from the hours of 5-8pm. Some parks are open 24 hours, so there are certainly other times that you can get similar views, with less obstruction from others trying to do the same. This allows you to appreciate the beauty of nature and its experience while also following social distancing guidelines.

  3. Spread Out. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned that giving yourself plenty of space between others is one of the best things you can do to stay safe and healthy. This can be a great opportunity to check out some smaller, but still gorgeous trails in an effort to avoid large crowds. If you find crowds to be unavoidable, wear a mask and do your best to give yourself and others six feet of distancing wherever possible.


Fulbright Program Student - Photo Credit: Juma Rahi

Environmental awareness is at an all time high. The National Park Service has recently connected with the U.S. State Department in order to honor and advocate for global environmental awareness. This partnership is driven by the desire to strengthen the Fulbright Program, a grant program that offers research, teaching, and study opportunities for international exchange students studying in the USA. This program operates in more than 140 countries, and supports finding solutions by exchanging domestic and international ideas regarding agriculture, arts, business and many more!

The intention behind this multi-organizational partnership is to “support and promote conservation of cultural and natural heritage across the globe”. The National Park Service will be giving Fulbright Program students the opportunity to gain professional experience in addition to their studies.


Los Padres National Forest, CA- Bryan Donoghue

About 1 hour’s drive from the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Padres National

Forest has officially lifted fire restrictions placed in the wake of the Dolan Fire. The Dolan Fire originated around August 18, 2020 and is actively under investigation since it is alleged the fire was a result of arson. At this time, 124,924 burned acres remain closed while park rangers assess if there are additional measures needed for clearing.

The park has, however, recently reopened surrounding roads and some trails, and now permits use of campfires and barbeques in all open areas of the park. (With great power comes great responsibility, and this extends to putting out your campfire too!) The park’s reopening comes after rain and snow swept through the area, which brought enough moisture to deplete fire hazards. The California coast has seen numerous major wildfires within the last year, including California’s oldest state park, Big Basin. Big Basin does not expect to reopen until next year at the earliest, as they recover from about 86,500 burned acres across Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties.

The News about Los Padres comes in perfect timing as California, known for their strict COVID-19 restrictions, lifts stay at home orders. Not all campsites are back open at this time, but as the state begins to reopen more recreational areas it is crucial for visitors to recreate responsibly in order to keep one another safe. If you’re interested in visiting campgrounds around California, be sure to check individual campsites for more information about their restrictions and guidelines before making your plans.

Yankee Meadows, Dixie National Forest, UT - Photo Credit: Jamie Rees


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