#OptOutside: state parks offer free entry

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#OptOutside infographicResidents and visitors are encouraged to put away leftovers and #OptOutside as part of their day-after-Thanksgiving traditions. To encourage folks to tap into Michigan's great outdoors and gather with friends and family, on Friday, Nov. 24, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that enables vehicle access to Michigan state parks, recreation areas, trails and boating access sites.

Exploring some of Michigan's best outdoor destinations is a great way to recover from holiday shopping excursions, burn off some of those Thanksgiving calories and enjoy the many benefits of nature. 

"In Michigan, you’re never more than a half-hour away from a state park, recreation area, state forest campground or state trail," said Ron Olson, DNR Parks and Recreation Division chief. "#OptOutside is an invitation to residents and those traveling to spend time outside during the holiday weekend and help continue or build new Thanksgiving traditions. The DNR hopes the free entry opportunity will encourage residents and visitors to explore new places and experience the outdoors' many physical, mental and social benefits."

There are plenty of ideas to incorporate into popular day-after-Thanksgiving traditions, including opportunities to:

  • Find a new mile to hike or run on one of more than 12,500 miles of trails.
  • Cast a line in a state park and put fishing on your Friday festivities menu.
  • Try mountain biking.
  • Find a new hunting spot by exploring one of Michigan's vast recreation areas.
  • Enjoy the peace and quiet of camping in the off-season.
  • Download a geocaching app and take part in an outdoor treasure hunting game that utilizes GPS-enabled devices.
  • Seek out historical markers and learn a little bit more about Michigan’s backstory.
  • Make a bird-watching scavenger hunt for kids and start a list of the birds you spot.

"The holidays can get hectic with added obligations, no matter how happy or anticipated they may be," said Olson. "Our #OptOutside promotion is an opportunity for folks to take a deep breath of fresh air, share an experience with your favorite people, and make some great holiday memories."

Although the Recreation Passport vehicle entry fee into 103 Michigan state parks, 138 state forest campgrounds and parking for hundreds of miles of trails and fee-based boat launches is waived Nov. 24, camping and other permit and license fees still apply.

Interested in learning more about things to do and places to visit? Visit the DNR website at michigan.gov/dnr to learn more about fishing, hunting, forest land, state parks and much more. To search for a list of Michigan state parks, rustic state forest campgrounds, state-designated trails and associated activities and amenities, visit www.michigan.gov/recsearch

The #OptOutside movement was started by outdoor recreation cooperative REI Inc. in 2015 to encourage people to spend time outdoors on Black Friday. For the third year in a row, the Michigan DNR has encouraged people to utilize the outdoors as part of their Thanksgiving weekend celebrations.


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