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National parks and forests offer free admission on MLK Day

Five free things to do at national parks in the West on Martin Luther King Jr. Day @latimestravel

You can visit the country's national parks and forests for free on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first fee-free day of the new year.

Not all parks and forests charge entry fees, but those that do will give visitors a break next Monday. That means you won't have to pay $15 to visit Joshua Tree or $25 to enter Yosemite.

If you want to double down on free, there are plenty of free things to do when you arrive at a park near or far. Each of the five parks below have downloadable online guides and newsletters on their websites that detail activities, hiking trails and sights to see.

Here are some free activities to get you started:

Death Valley (eastern California and Nevada): Rangers here lead a 2.5- to 3.5-mile walk Monday into one of the desert's canyons. Hikers must sign up in advance starting on Saturday at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Info: Death Valley National Park

Sequoia & Kings Canyon (Central California): Learn about the signature trees at this park, the giant sequoias, on a Grant Tree Walk at 10 a.m. Monday. You'll see the massive General Grant and other behemoths in Grant Grove. Hike takes about an hour and a half; meet at the Grant Tree parking lot. Info: Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Yosemite (Northern California): Start Monday with a 9 a.m. hour-long Camera Walk to take photos of the park in winter. It starts at the Ahwahnee Hotel, but visitors must sign up in advance at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village. Or join a free snowshoe tour at 10:30 a.m. (conditions permitting) at the Badger Pass Ski Area. Snowshoes are provided. Info: Yosemite National Park

Grand Canyon (northern Arizona): Take a 10 a.m. hour-long tour of Kolb Studio on Monday. It's the home and photography studio of the brothers who started snapping pictures of the park at the turn of the last century. Then join a 1:30 p.m. ranger-led rim walk to learn about the history and ecology of the massive canyon (meet at Verkamp's Visitor Center). Info: Grand Canyon National Park

White Sands (southern New Mexico): Spend the day Monday exploring the gypsum-white dunes in the park and then join a ranger for a sunset stroll at 4:30 p.m. It takes about an hour and provides some context for the geology and animals found here. Info: White Sands National Monument

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