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Technically, fall doesn't start until the Equinox on September 22-23, but with kids going back to school within the next few weeks, the crowds at National Parks will be diminishing and parks will be getting a lot quieter, especially in early September, while the weather will still be rather perfect for travel and optimal National Park visitation.

Several accommodation properties and activities in and around the National Parks are starting to put together their late summer and fall specials so here is a sneak preview of rates, discounts and special activities that will be available.

To celebrate the next National Park Service fee-free weekend August 15 and 16, 2009 (all 391 national parks will offer free admission), Lake Crescent Lodge, will be reliving a special time in the history of Olympic National Park by having actors portraying the twenty-sixth President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, and his wife visit. Dressed in period attire, the two will mingle at the lodge on August 16, September 20, and October 4 for free pictures with visitors. They will even talk about politics of the early 1900s. The lodge will also be serving a special commemorative menu that was served there to another famous president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in September 1937 while he was contemplating the designation of the Park to National Park status. Reservations can be made for the Sunday dinner by calling tel. 360/928-3211.

At Yellowstone National Park, late summer/early fall is one of the best times of the year to watch wildlife. There are several Lodging & Learning programs that focus on just that. The Fall Wolf and Elk Discovery package is a four-night program that includes accommodations at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel; three breakfasts, three lunches and one dinner per person; in-park transportation; a welcome gift and expert instruction by a Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI)-trained staffer. This program is priced at $619 per person based on double occupancy and will be offered August 26 and September 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2009.

The Roosevelt Rendezvous is a four-night program staying at the historic Roosevelt Lodge, also in the Northern part of the park. Guests participate in their choice of daily field trips, many with a wildlife theme; other field trips include geology treks and guided hikes. There is a maximum of 52 participants. The program also includes all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, in-park transportation and expert instruction by a YAI naturalist/guide. The rate is $679 per person based on two people in a guest cabin and will be offered September 11 and 15, 2009. Wake Up to Wildlife is a four-hour early-morning tour exploring Yellowstone's Lamar Valley, often called the "American Serengeti" because of the abundance of wildlife in the region. Participants climb aboard a Historic Yellow Bus, and a trained driver/guide leads the group through the region searching for wildlife. Continental breakfast is included. This tour is priced at $67 for adults and $33 for children between eight and 15 years old.

Grand Canyon South Rim is offering an End of Summer Package at Maswik Lodge and Yavapai Lodge (www.grandcanyonlodges.com). This package is based upon double occupancy and is available August 15 to September 10, 2009 and features accommodations, breakfast for two at either lodge, one motorcoach tour for two and discounts in gift stores of up to 20%. The package prices represent a savings of up to 44% percent. Grand Canyon Railway (www.thetrain.com) will offer coach-class discounts of 30% on the train component of their packages from September 8 through October 31, 2009. All packages include accommodations and train, for example the Grand Canyon Railway Express package will be priced at $133 per person versus the regular price of $140 per person. That particular package includes one night at the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel in Williams, Arizona and a round-trip train ride. The price for children aged two to15 goes down from $32 to $28, so a family of four can save $22 on the price of accommodations and the train.

Signal Mountain Lodge (tel. 307/543-2831; www.signalmtnlodge.com) in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming has a 25th Anniversary Pre-Labor Day Special. Stay in Grand Teton National Park before Labor Day and enjoy the fabulous views of the Grand Tetons at a special price in a Lower Lakefront retreat with two queen beds, a sofa bed, kitchenette and a view of Jackson Lake and the Teton Mountain Range. The price for up to four guests is $199 plus tax and is valid from August 23 to September 3, 2009. Please ask for the Pre-Labor Day Special at time of booking.

Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort (tel. 800/236-7916; www.furnacecreekresort.com) in Death Valley National Park has a Stay & Play package with rates for two people from $160 for overnight accommodations at the ranch and one day of unlimited golf, cart rental and club storage until October 8, 2009 (after that date the price goes up to $214). Tee off 214 feet below sea level and enjoy the scenic beauty of Death Valley in late summer/early fall. All rates are for two people, based on double occupancy in a standard room. Taxes are additional. Reserve this package online, using promo code GOLF.

Take advantage of a Bed and Breakfast packages at either The Ahwahnee or the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls (tel. 801-559-4862; www.yosemitepark.com) at Yosemite National Park. Prices from September 7 to October 29, 2009 are reduced and start from $230 per night at Yosemite Lodge and $494 per night for The Ahwahnee for two people including breakfast. Also at Yosemite, book a getaway for two nights at Wawona Hotel, Curry Village, or Housekeeping Camp. Use the promotional code SUMMER when making your booking and get a third night free. Curry Village tent cabins start from $55 per night, Housekeeping camp rooms start from $79 a. This offer is valid for stays Sunday through Thursday from August 23, 2009 to September 30, 2009. Blackout dates and certain restrictions may apply. All rates listed are based on double occupancy.

Zion Lodge (www.zionlodge.com) in Zion National Park is offering a new package for arrivals from August 16 through September 3. Called Zion Plus, the package includes accommodations for two nights, a breakfast buffet for two people each morning, sack lunches for two people on one day and a discount coupon of up to 20% off items purchased in the lodge gift shop. The package is priced at $328.70 for two people in a standard lodge room and $356.70 for two people in a Western cabin, representing a discount of 15% off regular rates. The rate includes meal gratuities but taxes are not included.

Rock Harbor Lodge (tel. 906/337-4993; www.rockharborlodge.com) in Isle Royale National Park, Michigan has a Kayak Ecotour taking place from August 25 to 29, 2009. Situated in stunning Lake Superior, see the island up close with loons, gray wolves and moose. This all inclusive ecotour provides transportation, comfortable lodging for four nights provided at Rock Harbor Lodge, all meals, kayaks and accessories, maps, permits and fees, and an ecologist/kayak guide. Some paddling experience is suggested, but not necessary. Each trip size is limited to ten people and the cost is $1,506 for singles or $2,690 per couple based on double occupancy.