The Matador guide to

National Public Lands Day

Explore, Preserve, and Protect.

Saturday, September 26, is National Public Lands Day. The annual holiday celebrates our country’s open areas, whether national forests, state parks, or public beaches. It’s about connecting people with the land and promoting a healthy relationship with the environment, and all national parks are free to visit on this day. As the country’s single biggest volunteer day, it’s also an opportunity for us to give back through beach clean-ups or tree planting events. No matter how you choose to commemorate this day, we hope you do so in a beautiful, natural space — one that is available to all.

Here, you’ll find dozens of articles about our favorite public lands, from majestic national parks to more underrated (and crowd-free) state parks, national forests, waterways, and beaches. Whether you’re looking to go hiking, camping, or paddling — or want to plan ahead for the winter — Matador has you covered.

Noelle Alejandra Salmi, Outdoor Editor

Protect Public Lands

The ultimate guide to everywhere you can camp permit-free on US public lands

In honor of National Public Lands Day, all national parks will be free Saturday

5 quick actions you can take to protect public lands under attack

Everything you need to know about getting a backpacking permit for national parks

The actual differences between national parks, monuments, and recreation areas

An initiative to protect 30 percent of the earth by 2030 could be massive for outdoor spaces in the US

How to visit public lands responsibly, and not be a part of the problem

Conserving land is now more economical than exploiting it

Before you head outdoors, be sure you’re respecting sacred grounds

The best of the National Parks

The best national parks for every type of traveler

The 8 best national park webcams (and when to check in)

The least-crowded national parks you should visit in summer

The 10 least-visited national parks in the US, and why you should go

The best types of exercise to enjoy at US national parks

The 7 best US national parks to experience with your dog

5 underrated alternatives to America’s busiest national parks

10 epic photos of the US National Parks and the stories behind them

The optimal itinerary for a US national park road trip, mapped

Visiting a national park? #DontFeedTheLandfills

It's a simple yet profound concept: Don't feed the landfills while visiting our national parks.

Beat the crowds

15 US state parks that are just as epic as national parks

Lesser-known US hikes that are just as amazing as their famous counterparts

11 spectacular US waterfalls to visit this fall

The best uncrowded state parks near the five busiest national parks

The 10 most unique places to go kayaking in the US

5 extraordinary hiking trails you won’t believe are in the United States

The best long-distance canoe and kayak trips in the US

The 10 best US national forests to visit with a dog

7 epic caves you can hike through in the US

The best places in the US to try forest bathing

9 of the clearest waters in the US to go wild swimming

The 5 most awe-inspiring old-growth forests in the US

The best places to go horseback riding in the US

Go camping

The best places to camp in all 50 states

8 campsites in landscapes that get you a zillion years away from 2020

The best camping spots right inside major US cities

How to secure a great last-minute campsite

The best places to go camping in the desert in the US

7 of the best campgrounds for stargazers in the United States

15 peaceful beach campgrounds perfect for decompressing

How to go camping without fire during wildfire season

6 best dark-sky destinations in the US

Explore the West Coast

The most underrated, crowd-free national monuments in the West

The prettiest sections of the Pacific Crest Trail you can tackle this fall

5 gorgeous trails not to miss in Olympic National Park

The 9 best hikes within one hour of Seattle

How to hunt for mushrooms in Oregon’s coastal rainforest

The most epic places to camp in the Western US

Why Sequoia and Kings Canyon are better than Yosemite

The 6 most stunning places to hike in California this fall

The best thing about each of California’s 9 national parks

Camping your way up California’s Highway 1

9 picture-perfect spots in California the masses haven’t discovered

The complete guide to hiking California’s Lost Coast

How to plan a cycling trip across Death Valley

Explore the Mountain States

The most beautiful hikes in the Rocky Mountains you need to do this fall

Skip the Strip to enjoy all the nature Las Vegas has to offer

A multi-day rafting trip on the Green River is the escape we all need right now

This epic fall road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton bypasses the crowds

Why you need to hike the Wind River Range in Wyoming

How to hike the Jefferson Pass Traverse in Glacier National Park

Hiking Hanging Lake, one of Colorado’s most stunning trails

8 of the best lake hikes in Idaho

11 images that prove Idaho’s Sawtooth Range is as badass and beautiful as it sounds

Explore the Southwest

An epic guide to hiking the American Southwest’s best 10 trails

48 hours in Zion National Park

The ultimate rock climbing trip through Moab, Utah

Exploring the amazing slot canyons of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The ultimate backpacking adventure in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

The ultimate day trip to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix

Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon is perfect for first-time backpackers. Here’s why.

This stunning Scottsdale desert has the most rewarding hikes for every ability

How to backpack Arizona’s eerie Superstition Wilderness

The perfect day trip to Sedona for outdoor lovers

5 ways to spend your day on the water near Phoenix

How to visit Lake Powell, the red-rock gem of the Arizona-Utah border

White Sands National Monument is the best natural place in the US to take your dog

Explore the Midwest

Isle Royale National Park is the most underrated place to hang out in nature this fall

5 state parks you have to visit in Minnesota

How to plan the ultimate trip to Indiana Dunes National Park

After Mount Rushmore, there’s a lot more to see in South Dakota

The best lakes to visit in Wisconsin’s Lake Country

Explore the Northeast

7 beautiful, underrated public lands to visit in the eastern US

How to visit Acadia National Park without a car

Why coastal Maine is your perfect fall camping getaway

The perfect one-day adventure in Acadia National Park

The most beautiful state parks in New England

4 incredible swimming holes in Vermont you need to check out

The best fall foliage trips to take by bus in the Northeast

It’s time for the Adirondacks to get the respect they deserve

From tip to tip, these are Long Island’s best hiking trails

Explore the Southeast

The Florida National Scenic Trail is one of the most underrated treks in the country

Biscayne National Park is the perfect day trip from Miami

The ultimate guide to rock climbing West Virginia’s New River Gorge

The best places to go camping in the South this fall

The best hiking trails near Atlanta

7 North Carolina summer hikes most of the world hasn’t discovered

How to use Asheville as your base for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Venture to Alaska

How to spend the perfect day in Denali out in the wild

How to see Denali National Park by bus in one day

Driving Alaska’s Dalton Highway is the most remote and epic road trip in the US

How to explore the breathtaking fjords of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

A photographic journey through Juneau, Alaska’s unique ecosystem

How to spend three perfect days in Denali from a campground

Dog sledding is Alaska’s national sport, and you can try it in Denali

To see the real Alaska, you need to brave the rugged winter

Turnagain Arm: One of Alaska’s most beautiful destinations

Venture to Hawaii

8 stunning trails you need to hike in Hawaii

The 9 most amazing camping spots in Hawaii

How to choose the right Hawaiian island for your outdoor passion

The ultimate guide to the Road to Hana, Maui

The most amazing beaches in Kauai you’ve never heard of

20 things you should know before hiking the Kalalau Trail

Polihale State Park: Camping as far west as you can go in Hawaii

Why Lanai is the last tourist-free Hawaiian island

How to hike the Awa’awapuhi Trail in Hawaii

Plan ahead

The best national parks to visit this winter

The best places to see the northern lights in the continental United States

These US hikes are actually better in cold weather

The best ski trails in US national parks

The 10 best parks in the US for spectacular winter stargazing

The 7 best places in the world to go ice fishing

The 7 most beautiful lakes to visit in winter

The 9 best places to go snowshoeing in North America

The best national parks to visit this spring

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