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Visit Utah’s national parks for free on Saturday

April is also Utah Dark Sky Month, and almost all of the “Mighty Five” are official dark sky parks.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Skyline Arch in Arches National Park is illuminated against the night sky in 2017. Entry is free at all national parks on Saturday.

If you don’t have plans this weekend, it might be a good time to visit one of Utah’s five national parks.

Saturday is a Free Entrance Day for all national parks. This free-admission day is being held in celebration of National Park Week, which is marked by events, volunteer opportunities and programs throughout the United States.

If seeing some of Utah’s most spectacular sights is on your adventure bucket list, now’s your chance to gaze upon Delicate Arch or hike through the Needles District in Canyonlands. You can take in Zion’s landscape from the Canyon Overlook Trail, see Chimney Rock pillar in Capitol Reef, or explore the Bryce Amphitheater.

There’s also a bonus reason to check out Utah’s national parks this month: stargazing. Gov. Spencer Cox declared April 2021 to be Utah Dark Sky Month, and except for Zion, all of Utah’s national parks are also official dark sky parks.

Dark sky park designations are given to public and private locations protected for conservation where the stars are clearly visible. In order to receive the title, sites must keep light pollution to a minimum and do educational outreach about night skies. Dark skies are important for animal, plant and human health.

Cox’s announcement came after five of Utah’s state parks received International Dark Sky designations earlier this year. Utah is home to 23 dark sky locations out of a list of nearly 100 around the world that are recognized by the International Dark Sky Association.

Entry to Hovenweep, Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges and Dinosaur national monuments is also free on Saturday. The waiver doesn’t apply to fees for activities like camping and special tours.

Already have plans?

Don’t worry. The National Park Service also holds Free Entrance Days on Aug. 4, Aug. 25, Sept. 25 and Nov. 11.

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