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Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has announced that the National Park Service will offer three fee-free weekends this summer to encourage Americans seeking affordable vacations to visit these national treasures.
“During these tough economic times, our national parks provide opportunities for affordable vacations for families,” Salazar said at a press conference at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. “I encourage everyone to visit one of our nation’s crown jewels this summer and especially to take advantage of the three free-admission weekends.”
“National Parks also serve as powerful economic engines for local communities and we hope that promoting visitation will give a small shot in the arm to businesses in the area,” he said.
The 147 National Park Service sites across the country that charge fees for entry will waive these entrance fees during the weekends of June 20-21, July 18-19, and August 15-16, 2009, Salazar said.
Locally, summer is an excellent time to visit Big Bend National Park’s Chisos Mountains, which are markedly cooler than the lower elevations of the park during the summertime. Typically, daytime temperatures in the Chisos Mountains range from the 80’s into the low 90’s at the Chisos Basin. Elevations range from 5400 feet to about 7800 feet.
The Basin complex contains a lodge, campground, restaurant, visitor center, and camper’s store. It is also the trailhead starting point for hikes wishing to gain elevation and even cooler temperatures while enjoying the Chisos Mountains trail system. The High Chisos Mountain trails offer incredible views, wildlife viewing opportunities, numerous flowers and plants, and terrific hiking on well maintained trails. Maps and trails information can be obtained at any of the park’s visitor centers from the ranger staff, including suggested routes and camping options for backpackers.
A summertime visit to Big Bend will also prove to be a lesser visited time of year with good options to camp or stay at the lodge, and enjoy the trails of the mountains. Other opportunities to enjoy in the park include a river trip on the Rio Grande, touring the scenic roads by auto, or using a high clearance vehicle on the many dirt roads that await visitors to the park.