5 Ways To Celebrate Public Lands Day

Mark September’s National Public Lands Day by getting out and giving back for the country’s largest single-day volunteer event.

What are you doing for National Public Lands Day? On September 24, nature lovers from across the country head for their top parks, trails, and preserves to celebrate our favorite holiday. National Public Lands Day is an opportunity for everyone to explore new places, learn about our national treasures, and most importantly, give back through hundreds of volunteer events nationwide. 

National Public Lands Day launched in 1994, and it’s become the country’s largest single-day volunteer event. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in projects ranging from cleanups in neighborhood city parks to ecosystem restoration in the national parks. The nonprofit National Environmental Education Foundation organizes the event in partnership with federal land management agencies like the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—but plenty of local, state, and regional public-lands stakeholders get involved, too. And the day has become a big deal. Over the past 10 years, 1 million volunteers have contributed 5 million volunteer-hours, performing $133 million worth of work to improve and protect these special places. 

Ready to join? Here are five great ideas for celebrating National Public Lands Day in your own way.


National Public Lands Day is all about appreciating and enjoying our public spaces—so get out there and have some fun! To mark the occasion, admission to all National Park Service sites (and some other sites, too) is free for the day. What better excuse to visit one of these crown jewels of the public land system? Take a hike at Yosemite, linger over a picnic at Cuyahoga, paddle a kayak in the Everglades, ride your bike at Grand Teton, tour Gettysburg—the list goes on and on. 


Broadcast your love for public lands by sharing photos of how you’re celebrating the day using the official hashtag #NPLD. You never know who you’ll inspire.


At its core, National Public Lands Day aims to bring people together with service projects to restore, improve, and protect our parks. Volunteer opportunities run the gamut from building trails to planting trees to picking up trash to collecting native seeds—and there are hundreds of them planned across the country. Here’s just a sampling of the kinds of opportunities on tap for this year. Find an event near you here, or visit publiclands.com to join give-back activities happening near every store location. 

Pennsylvania: Plant pollinator gardens at Loyalhanna Dam near Pittsburgh, or TK at Raccoon State Park.

Ohio: Paddle, climb, play and volunteer at Scioto Fest in Columbus (and even camp overnight at Scioto Audubon Metro Park).

Massachusetts: Clean up the beach at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge north of Boston.

Virginia: Check out Charlottesville’s Biscuit Run (designed to tkKTKTK), or pull invasive weeds (and join Bike Your Park Day) at Sky Meadows State Park outside Washington, D.C.

Oregon: Install new interpretive displays about plant life at Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area near Medford. 

Colorado: Spruce up a campground at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area near Salida. 


Education is a huge part of National Public Lands Day, too. Many of the planned events focus on learning more about the plants, animals, ecosystems, and history of our public lands. The more you know about these places, the deeper your connection will be. For example, you can join a morning bird walk or plant identification hike at Kinnikinnick Creek Conservation Area in Illinois, learn how to plant a backyard food forest in Miami, or hear about the importance of native plant species from a master gardener at Kentucky’s Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument. 


This year’s National Public Lands Day theme is “Giving Back Together.” More than just a chance to pick up trash or pull a few weeds, this holiday can help us make connections not just to the land, but also to each other. Many events include a fun social element, such as a post-volunteer barbecue, while others specifically focus on building community around conservation. Take RioPalooza in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest: The event invites the Latinx community together for tubing, horseback riding, snorkeling, grilling, and learning more about the watershed’s value and need for protection. So don’t stop with simply lending a hand to a service project—chat up the person beside you, too!

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.