LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Temperatures have dropped and the time is right for a daytrip or a weekend getaway, and national parks are a terrific choice since you’ll be able to get in free on Saturday.
National Public Lands Day is Saturday, Sept. 24, and officials at Lake Mead National Recreation Area confirmed that it’s a free day. Charges for amenities still apply, but entrance fees will not be charged.
Here are some things to know if you are thinking about hitting a national park near Las Vegas:
LAKE MEAD: Seasonal trail closures are still in effect for another week. Obey restrictions against hiking the trails through Sept. 30: Goldstrike Canyon; White Rock Canyon and Trail; Arizona Hot Springs and Trail; Liberty Arch Trail; Lone Palm Trail; Sugar Loaf Trail; Lone Palm and Sugar Loaf areas.
Hemenway Harbor is the only boat ramp currently open, and only shallow-hull vessels can be launched. No boats over 24 feet.
Fire restrictions that have been in place since May allow wood or charcoal fires in grills of developed picnic areas and campgrounds where a host is present. Other rules apply, so check Lake Mead’s website.
RED ROCK CANYON NATIONAL RECREATION AREA: The Scenic Loop does not require a reservation until October, but expect traffic if you’re going on Saturday. Red Rock is popular with hikers and cyclists, so take care on the road, and be safe on the trails. A tip from locals: Pick another day to go to Red Rock, pay the $15 fee and enjoy the outdoors with fewer people around.
VALLEY OF FIRE: The state park offers free admission and free camping on National Public Lands Day, but the park is still doing some work after heavy rains washed rocks and mud over roads. Summer closures are still in effect, including the Fire Wave/Seven Wonders trail, which opens Oct. 1.
TULE SPRINGS FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT: There are no fee stations to worry about with this park because it is really just starting to develop. You can access the park from the far north end of Durango Drive at Mocassin Road — and a reminder … “Pleistocene Palooza” is on Saturday, Oct. 1.
DEATH VALLEY: Record rains in August caused heavy road damage in the park, and rains in September did more damage. As park officials dig out and provide updates often, the good news is that access is better from the Nevada side of the park. Take Bell Vista Road east out of Pahrump to get to CA-190 and into the park. CA-190 is still closed from Emigrant Junction over Towne Pass to Panamint Valley Road.
Death Valley National Park’s Facebook page notes that there’s still plenty to see. “Our team is working hard to make every visit memorable! Some areas you CAN see in the park include Artists Palette, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point, Harmony Borax Works, Golden Canyon & Badwater Basin!”
MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE: Many roads are still closed after recent flooding. Barstow HQ and the Kelso Depot are also among the closures. And be careful about travel based only on GPS navigation — a recent problem in the park. Closed roads include Zzyzx Road, Kelbaker Road between Baker and Kelso, Black Canyon Road between Cedar Canyon Road and Hole-in-the-Wall, Mojave Road on Soda Lake from preserve boundary to Kelbaker Rd, and Mojave Road in Paiute Gorge. See the park’s website for more.
JOSHUA TREE: Further to the south, Joshua Tree National Park has lifted alerts that were in place recently because of flood damage. Photos from early August showed cars that had been partially buried in mud from flooding.
GRAND CANYON: Flooding hasn’t been a problem at the Grand Canyon, but hikers should be aware of weather conditions — especially heat — if they go on long hikes. It’s also critical to take water and electrolytes, as well as a backup way to properly filter water if necessary. “Experienced desert hikers know that the timing of their hike is the most important factor in avoiding hazards,” the park’s website says.
ZION: Lava Point overlook is currently closed for work on an overlook railing, but the campground is open. Rains that cause flash floods in the Narrows can cause closures with little warning. Also, the Angel’s Landing hike requires a permit — part of a pilot program put in place earlier this year.
BRYCE CANYON: Damage along the popular Navajo Loop trail has caused closures because of unsafe conditions. “Heavy rainfall has led to washouts along the Wall Street switchbacks and created unsafe conditions for hikers. The Two Bridges side remains open while trail crews make repairs to Wall Street. Hikers are likely to encounter washouts on all park trails.”