The National Park Service isn’t alone in celebrating a centennial in 2016 -- three national parks turn 100 this year, too. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala National Park, and Bandelier National Monument all gained protected status in the months leading up to the creation of the park service on August 25, 1916.
Since entrance fees are being waived at all national parks that charge them on select days (April 16-24, August 25-28, September 24, and November 11), now is the perfect time to explore. Here’s what you can do in these three parks, and how they’re celebrating their 100th birthdays.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Established on August 1, 1916, this park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. While you can hike, camp, and even learn about Hawaiian culture here, most visitors come to see the lava churning in Halema’uma’u Crater from the overlook at the Jaggar Museum.
The park is going all out for its centennial. In addition to waiving entrance fees on the 16 days specified by the NPS, it will also waive fees on its birthday, August 1. Throughout the year, you can participate in monthly, themed Centennial Hikes and corresponding After Dark in the Park talks. On August 27, the annual Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Cultural Festival & BioBlitz will celebrate the centennial as well as Hawaiian culture and the park’s biodiversity (free with park admission).
The park is in the process of converting a former administration building into a new museum that will exhibit art, photographs, artifacts, and historic objects related to the park’s establishment. Currently, the restored lobby serves as a studio for the park’s artists-in-residence. You can see them at work there in May, August, and December 2016.
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park were originally both called Hawaii National Park, even though they were on two separate islands; Haleakala is on Maui, and Hawaii Volcanoes is on the Big Island. The two split in July 1961. Since they were once the same park, they share the same birthday, August 1, and like Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Haleakala will also waive its entrance fee that day in addition to the other 16 free days offered by the NPS.
Haleakala is known for its stark volcanic landscapes in the Summit District where you can climb 10,000 feet in 37 miles -- while navigating 33 switchbacks -- to the highest point on Maui, known for its waterfalls and ocean vistas in the Kipahulu District, 12 miles past the town of Hana.
Bandelier National Monument
Named for Adolph Francis Bandelier, a Swiss-born scholar who grew up in Illinois and came to the Southwest at age 40 to explore ancient Puebloan sites, Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico turned 100 on February 11 of this year with little fanfare to mark the occasion. Take advantage of the 16 free days to see why this was one of the first parks in the country to be established.
Most visitors begin at the Visitor Center with the short 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail that leads through excavated archeological sites on the floor of Frijoles Canyon. For a more challenging and remote park experience, head to the Ancestral Puebloan village of Tsankawi, located 12 miles away. You’ll be exposed to the elements and be required to climb ladders on the 1.4-mile mesa walk, but you’ll be rewarded with village views and petroglyphs.
Bonus: Consider visiting on October 8 when the park will hold its Fall Fiesta featuring crafts and Puebloan dancers.