National parks are among the United States of America’s treasures. From the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island to Yosemite in California, there are more than 400 national park sites in the U.S., including those in American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
It’s going to be even easier to visit national parks on six specific days in 2021 because the National Park Service has designated them “free days” to increase access and promote recreational opportunities.
On these days, all National Park Service (NPS) sites that normally charge an entrance fee will waive those fees for everyone. It’s important to note, however, that although the entrance fee is waived, that waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, or special tours.
Let’s take a look at these days.
Monday, January 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Commemorated on the third Monday of January, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. is also a day of service. Be sure to check out how you can volunteer at service projects scheduled to take place at parks across the country.
Saturday, April 17: First Day Of National Park Week
There’s no better time than the presidentially proclaimed National Park Week -- April 17 to 25 -- to celebrate and enjoy our national parks. Many parks will be holding special programs and events, so be sure to plan your trip in advance.
Wednesday, August 4: The One-Year Anniversary Of The Great American Outdoors Act
The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law on August 4, 2020, to help address the multi-billion-dollar deferred maintenance backlog at U.S. national parks and public lands. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced at that time that Great American Outdoors Day would be observed on August 4, in commemoration.
August 25: National Park Service Birthday
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation establishing the National Park Service. This year will be the National Park Service’s 105th birthday.
Saturday, September 25: National Public Lands Day
Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day is the largest single-day volunteer effort in the U.S. As NPS explains, this day “celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship, and encourages use of open space for education, recreation, and health benefits.”
Monday, November 11: Veterans Day
Veterans Day began as Armistice Day, the day when the fighting stopped during World War I. A Congressional Act in 1938 made the 11th of November a legal holiday. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation in 1954, November 11 became the day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Many national parks have direct connections to the American military -- there are dozens of battlefields, military parks, and historic sites that commemorate and honor the service of American veterans. With this in mind, visiting a national park is a great way to celebrate Veterans Day.
Keep in mind that as a way to thank military personnel and their families for their service and sacrifice, NPS has permanently waived entrance fees for veterans and Gold Star Families. More about access for those families may be found here.
Finally, keep in mind that you can also buy a pass from NPS for other days. The annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which costs $80, offers unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks that normally charge entrance fees.
There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth-grade students, and disabled citizens, so be sure to check with NPS for more details.
For more inspiration, see our most popular NPS content here: