How U.S. National Parks Are Celebrating Veterans Day 2022

by Amy Myers
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Every year, the National Park Service offers free entry for all visitors as a way to celebrate and honor those who sacrifice everything in order to protect the lands they love. This Veterans Day, in addition to the fee waiver, national parks from coast to coast will be offering programs, hikes and other activities that shed light on the country’s military and natural histories.

For many of our nation’s heroes, there’s no better way to spend the holiday than to head out to their favorite trails and scenic spots. So, even if your nearby national park doesn’t have any special programming this weekend, strap on your boots and plan a visit anyway. While you’re there, be sure to thank anyone and every one sporting their branch’s symbols.

Many NPS staff members will also be handing out and offering information regarding the free, newly implemented Veterans and Gold Star Family Interagency Lifetime Pass which gives military members to over 2,000 national parks and affiliated sites.

Here are the parks with Veterans Day programs and events:

Indiana Dunes National Park

Friday, November 11, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Indiana Dunes National Park will be offering a short film, Heroes on Deck, which focuses on the role that Chicago and Lake Michigan played in the training of more than 15,000 World War II Navy Pilots.

“The story not only includes how the pilots were trained but also the recovery of some of the 100 aircraft that ended up at the bottom of Lake Michigan,” the national park shared.

Saturday, November 12, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Following the educational film, Indiana Dunes National Park will also be offering a ranger-led park the day after Veterans Day. The brief hike takes groups of visitors along the Calumet Dunes Trail, a 0.6-mile paved path that marks where the shoreline of Lake Michigan used to be.

Pea Ridge National Military Park

Saturday, November 12, 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Throughout the day, Pea Ridge National Military Park, the 4,300-acre battlefield in Arkansas, will be offering a military timeline, “Salute to the U.S. Soldier,” featuring historians dressed in uniforms from various conflicts and military efforts. The presentation will take place at the visitor’s center.

Saturday, November 12, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, the national military park will also be performing artillery demonstrations behind the visitor’s center on an hourly basis.

“Pea Ridge National Military Park preserves and commemorates the March 7-8, 1862, battle that helped Union forces maintain physical and political control of the state of Missouri,” the park stated.

Shenandoah National Park

Friday, November 11, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

In conjunction with Project Healing Waters, Shenandoah National Park is honoring veterans by once again holding fly fishing educational programs, demonstrations and classes. Project Healing Waters is a national non-profit organization that promotes emotional and physical healing through fly fishing.

 “We build relationships. It makes your heart much bigger; it makes your heart bigger than you ever thought it could be,” said Virginia Regional Coordinator Bill Campbell.   

This year, Project Healing Waters will hold a class on different fly fishing techniques in which visitors can learn tips and practice their casts. Volunteers will also demonstrate fly tying.

Wind Cave National Park

Friday, November 11, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Further west in South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park, staff will be offering free tours of the park’s namesake attraction. Wind Cave will hold three different tours of the Garden of Eden and the Fairgrounds throughout the day.

“Visitors on both tours will view the boxwork formation for which the cave is famous. The Fairgrounds Tour lasts an hour and a half and has 450 stairs. The Garden of Eden Tour is an hour long and has 150 stairs,” the park said.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Saturday, November 12

Hawai’i Volcanoes’ programs may not be veteran or military-focused, but they are still a great way to celebrate the holiday weekend. The day after Veterans Day, visitors can volunteer to be a part of the Stewardship at the Summit Rainforest Restoration, which encourages hikers to help remove invasive plants from the landscape.

On the same day, visitors can also take a “Walk into the Past with Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar,” the founder of the Hawai’ian Volcano Observatory. Jagger will be in period costume and lead a stroll along the edge of Kīlauea volcano. Or, they can partake in the Birth of Kahuku, a ranger-led hike that lasts 90 minutes along a 1.5-mile trail.

Bent’s Old Ford National Historic Site

Friday, November 11, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.; Saturday, November 12, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

On both Friday and Saturday, Bent’s Old Ford National Historic Site will be offering its own military timeline which focuses on the fort when it acted as a fur trading post and stagecoach station as well as the military units that operated close by.

During this time, Bent’s Fort served as a trading post and a private place of business for many Plains Nations. Federal troops never occupied the fort while it was in operation, but they often passed through the region, even camping by the river. NPS staff and volunteers will also demonstrate the evolution of uniforms and equipment from 1833 to 1875.