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National Park Week begins with free admission this weekend

National Park Week begins with free admission this weekend
A bright moon illuminates the sky above the desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Go this weekend and you'll save $15 on entrance fees as part of National Park Week. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

National Park Week starts this weekend, a good time to plan a trip to Yosemite or Joshua Tree and take advantage of free admission on Saturday and Sunday.

The fee-free days this weekend apply to all national parks, historic sites and other locations managed by the park service. (You would save $30 on entry to Yosemite and $15 on entry to Joshua Tree national parks.)

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It's part of an effort to honor "America's best idea" and get more Americans to go visit, particularly as the National Park Service revs up for its centennial in 2016.

The park service and the National Park Foundation recently rolled out a new website to make it easier for people to identify national parks near them. Find Your Park allows you to search by ZIP Code or by park name and find information on more than 400 parklands nationwide.

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The website also features videos from first lady Michelle Obama, model-singer Bella Thorne, the park service's "centennial ambassador" who takes a walk in the Santa Monica Mountains and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

From the video, here's how Gordon-Levitt explains why national parks were created:

"In the early 20th century, huge, rich, powerful men and corporations were snapping up enormous parts of the country and exploiting ... them, not necessarily treating them well, just trying to make money with them. The idea that 100 years ago our government stepped in and said, 'Hey, we're protecting these plots of land and preserving them as national treasures' and now 100 years later it's still happening...."

For more trip-planning information, the foundation offers free a guide you may download, such as "Happy Trails: 25 Unforgettable National Park Hikes" and "Parks for Play: 35 National Park Adventures for Kids of All Ages."

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National Park Week also includes Earth Day (April 22) activities and other events through April 26.

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