The National Park Service (NPS) turns 104 on Tuesday, and will offer free entry to national parks

The National Park Service (NPS) was established on August 25, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. To celebrate, the NPS is offering a fee free day this Tuesday, August 25. Want to plan a quick visit? Here are four national parks in the Southwest that we recommend checking out for a nice day trip.

grand canyon national park sunset
Sunset on the South Rim.Terrance Siemon
Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)

While the canyon itself is vast and could take a lifetime to explore, the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park provides the perfect escape for a quick day trip through the park. Please note that temperatures are still high at Grand Canyon, and that you should bring plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Visit in the morning for the coolest temperatures.

Due to COVID concerns, guests must enter and exit through the South Entrance near Tusuyan. For more information on what is currently open on the South Rim, click here.

great sand dunes national park fee free day
Great Sand Dunes National Park offers a dramatic landscape.Terrance Siemon
Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park offers the largest dunes in North America at 8,200 feet. These dunes are simply breathtaking — either from their sheer beauty or from hiking in the soft sand.

If you are planning to hike, start early in the morning to avoid the heat and any threat of lightning storms. Once you crest the first dune known as High Dune, take a moment to appreciate the views all around you, as the the rugged 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains tower above. For those who are looking for a challenge, Star Dune is the tallest in the park 750 feet from base to summit. Expect to take about six hours to complete this 8 mile hike.

To read more about Great Sand Dunes National Park and other sand parks in the region, click here.

chaco canyon national park service fee free day
A glimpse into one of the restored rooms of Chaco Canyon.Matt Yeoman
New Mexico: Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chaco Canyon offers a glimpse into the lives of the ancestral Puebloans who inhabited this area of New Mexico in the mid 800s for almost 300 years. Several great houses remain for guests to enjoy today including Pueblo Bonito, Una Vida and many others.

Chaco offers several different hiking options that vary in length. Guests wishing to simply view the fascinating architecture of some of Chaco’s most popular sites can park and take a short walk to enjoy the great houses. Others require a bit more hiking, but are a great way to see more and escape the crowds. Plan your visit by clicking here.

canyonlands national park service fee free day
Stargazers and astrophotographers need to add this designated Dark Sky Park Canyonlands to their bucket list.Terrance Siemon
Utah: Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is the perfect escape for those wanting to get away from the crowds and dive into the desert. The park itself is separated into four distinct areas — Island in the Sky, the Needles District, the Maze and Horseshoe Canyon — with the Colorado and the Green Rivers serving as the boundaries.

Canyonlands offers a wide variety of activities including hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, canyoneering, boating, Jeeping and more. Make sure to stay for the stars and enjoy the pristine night skies at this certified Dark Sky Park.

For more information on what to do in Canyonlands, click here.

Upcoming Fee Free Days at National Parks

September 26: National Public Lands Day

November 11: Veterans Day