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5 Outdoors-Lovin’ Ways to Celebrate Public Lands Month

Rocky Mountain National Park; (Photo/National Park Service)
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September is Public Lands Month, and with millions of acres to celebrate, we’ve put together a few of our favorite ways to enjoy and support public lands.

Here in the United States, we collectively share a whopping 640 million acres of public land. From national parks to national monuments, wildlife refuges, designated wilderness areas, and beyond, there are places that push adventurous limits and provide sanctuary for humans and creatures alike.

And September celebrates these lands in their entirety, with an all-out Public Lands Day on Sept. 28. And since its inception in 1994, it’s become the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort.

Here are five ways to enjoy, give back to, and support your public lands in the month of September.

Sign Up for a Public Lands Day Project

Photo credit: NPS

Public Lands Day events are already scheduled across the country, and the National Environmental Education Foundation has an amazing collection of Public Lands Day events that you can find here. The map is super helpful in pinpointing an event near you.

From waterway cleanups to trail building to de-littering our beaches, there is a plethora of volunteer opportunities to both beautify and conserve our public lands and waters. Plus, it’s pretty darn cool to be a part of the biggest volunteer day of the year. Do it, bring a couple of friends, plan a post-service BBQ, and toast to your hard work that benefits us all.

Create Your Own Public Service Project

Maybe September 21 doesn’t work for you. You want to be of service, but you’re at a loss for what to do. Well, it can be as simple as picking up a trash bag, heading to your favorite spot of ground, and doing a quick trash sweep. Or it can be as complicated as helping a local organization plan and execute a service project specific to the needs of your area. Don’t overthink it unless you feel compelled to.

Plan a Public Lands Adventure

Whether experiencing public lands is old hat or a new endeavor, take some time this month to enjoy a few of the 640 million acres held in the public trust. Perhaps you can plan a trip to a place you’ve never been or a type of public land you’ve never experienced. Maybe there’s a spot near you that’s always been on your list but you’ve never taken the time to just go.

The beauty of adventuring on public lands is that it can be as frugal or as grandiose as you please. A gorgeous hotel room in Glacier National Park? Why not? Car camping in your nearest national forest? That’s also an option.

Treat Yourself to a National Parks Pass

A group of fourth-graders shows their national parks passes as part of the Every Kid in a Park Initiative; photo credit: NPS

I’ve had my national parks pass for 7 years running. It’s $80 and grants me entrance into over 2,000 amazing places. It covers entry fees to national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national recreation areas as well as day-use fees in national forests, national grasslands, and Bureau of Land Management areas.

If you (or someone you know) happens to be in the fourth grade, you get a free national parks pass, as do our active military and people with disabilities. Seniors can also purchase a lifetime pass for $80. Did I mention it gets you into over 2,000 hot spots for public land recreation?

Oh, and pro tip: National parks are free on Public Lands Day. So if a pass is currently out of budget — or entry fees are even a bit much — you can get in the door for zero bucks. Check out the other free days here.

Give to a Public Lands Nonprofit

Sometimes, money is easier to give than time. So jump on the bandwagon and support a public lands advocacy group you care about. Are you a fan of non-motorized wilderness areas? Donate to The Wilderness Society.

Are you a hunter and angler with a passion for the backcountry? Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has an awesome membership program with a ton of community events across the country.

Do you love hiking and all things trail-oriented? The American Hiking Society is a great place to start. Are you more oriented towards wildlife? The National Wildlife Federation has both national and state programs to support. More of a river rat? Support American Rivers.

The possibilities really are endless, and so many great organizations are worthy of your support.

Final Thoughts

These are clearly just a few of the amazing ways to celebrate and support your public lands. It’s up to us to make sure these places stay wild and intact for future generations. Here’s to a great Public Lands Month, from the GearJunkie crew to all of you!

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