I spent my Memorial Day weekend camping out in Yosemite, and I can easily say that the summer crowds and traffic jams there are as big and bad as ever.
Still, the number of campers and daytrippers in our national parks overall have been on a steady decline. That's why Ken Salazar, our new Secretary of the Interior, has announced that entry fees will be waived at the 147 national parks that charge them for three weekends this summer (June 20-21, July 18-19 and Aug. 15-16).
That will save you anywhere from $3, charged at national historic parks and monuments, to $25 charged at the crowd-gathering whoppers like Yellowstone and Yosemite.
Unfortunately, fees won't be waived for campsites, tours or overpriced food at concession stands, although some parks will be offering a $5 recreational voucher and/or a free reusable, eco-friendly shopping bag during those free weekends. And hey, at least the national parks are still open for your business, unlike the numerous state parks that may be closed in California and other states.
The first free summer weekend happens to be Father's Day weekend -- why not spring for you and your Dad to go camping or fishing just like the good old days? You can lead the retro-vacation trend before everyone watches Ken Burns' new documentary and gets on board, filling up the campsites and parking lots. Just my word of advice: Skip Yosemite for those weekends. It's going to be crowded anyway and besides, the waterfalls have dried up for the season.
National Parks are free for three summer weekends