Ditch the stores and hit the Alaska trails: a new Black Friday tradition

A view of Chugach State Park from Mt. Eklutna. (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)
A growing number of Americans are ditching crowded stores on Black Friday and hitting the trails instead. The “Opt Outside” campaign was launched by an outdoor gear company two years ago and has caught on at state and national parks across the country, like in Alaska, where state park fees are waived on Black Friday.

AKPM: “I’m walking through mostly birch forest. It snowed a couple of days ago, so there’s some fresh snow on the ground and on the trees.”

It’s wild, it’s wintry and for Black Friday, the five-dollar parking fee is waived.

In 2015 the outdoor gear company REI shut its doors for the day on Black Friday and unveiled the #OptOutside campaign.

Carrie Harris stopped into the REI here in Anchorage the day before Thanksgiving.

“Right now I am shopping for a hat for myself,” Harris explained.

Harris said she’s glad REI is closed on Black Friday. After a late breakfast that she said will probably include some turkey, Harris and her family plan to steer clear of the shops the day after Thanksgiving.

“My in-laws are in town,” Harris said, “And with our three little boys we’re going to get out and do some sledding and try to stay away from downtown [and] all of civilization here in Anchorage, and just spend time together as a family outside.”

Free access

They can do that at any state park in Alaska for free on Black Friday. Ethan Tyler is the director of State Parks and Recreation.

“We’re certainly encouraging people to use the hashtag Opt Outside and as part of that we are waiving all of our parking fees,” Tyler said.

Two moose walk along the side of Mt. Eklutna in Chugach State Park. (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

More than a dozen other state parks are doing the same and the National Park Service is also on board. Sure, you might miss out on some bargains, but the pay-off can be huge.

AKPM: “I just walked around this corner and I’m now in this big bowl surrounded by mountains on three sides and right now I see two moose and they’ve stopped moving right now– I think they see me or at least they hear me. Really, just spectacular.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Google Street View takes you to Canada’s northernmost Arctic park, Radio Canada International

Finland: Spot a reindeer while driving? Tap the app!, The Independent Barents Observer

Iceland: High peak in low season, Iceland’s mass-tourism boiling over, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Looking for ‘the gold of the Arctic’? Meet the cloudberry, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic national park expands, becomes Russia’s biggest, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s Christmas present of the year is…. an electric bike!, Radio Sweden

Emily Russell, Alaska Public Media

Emily Russell, Alaska Public Media

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