If you plan to be — or can be — at one of the more than 400 national park sites across the U.S. on August 4, the National Park Service has a treat for you.
Here’s what’s so special about that day: August 4 is one of the 6 days each year designated a “Free Entrance Day” by the National Park Service. On those days, entrance fees are waived at all National Park Service sites that normally charge an entrance fee. It’s important to note 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.
“National parks are America’s best idea,” the National Park Service explains. “The fee-free days provide a great opportunity to visit a new place or an old favorite, especially one of the national parks that normally charge an entrance fee.”
A Special Day
More than 325 million people visit our national parks each year. As you can imagine, the cost to maintain everything those visitors need — from roads and trails to visitor facilities and restrooms — gets extremely expensive.
The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law on August 4, 2020, to provide up to $1.9 billion each year for 5 years for maintenance needed at facilities and infrastructure in our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and American Indian schools. At the signing, David L. Bernhardt — who was U.S. Secretary of the Interior at the time — announced that Great American Outdoors Day would be observed on that day hereafter in commemoration.
Wednesday, August 4, is the 1-year anniversary of the act being signed. In recognition of the act’s importance, the day is one of the National Park Service’s fee-free days.
Other Fee-Free Days
Don’t worry if you can’t visit a national park on August 4 — there’s a second fee-free day this month. The National Park Service will celebrate the 105th anniversary of its founding on Wednesday, August 25. That day, known as National Park Service Birthday, is a fee-free day.
The final two fee-free days of the year are National Public Lands Day — Saturday, September 25 – and Veterans Day on Thursday, November 11.
It’s important to note that free passes to national parks are also available for U.S. military veterans and Gold Star Families, current members of the military, fourth-grade students through August, fifth-grade students and their families through August, and U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Discounted passes are available for senior citizens.
Finally, keep in mind that you can also buy an annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The pass, which costs $80, offers unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas — including all national parks that normally charge entrance fees.
You can find all of the details about those various passes here.
Know Before You Go
The National Park Service staff understands that with more than 400 national parks to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where to go. To make your trip planning easier, they created the Find A Park website, which allows searching for national parks by state, activity, and even topic. You can visit the website here.
Finally, as you plan your trip (or trips!) to a national park, keep in mind that the National Park Service follows recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The National Park Service explains that consistent with CDC recommendations, people who are not fully vaccinated, which means it has been two weeks since receiving the vaccine’s final dose, must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces. Secondly, everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, is required to wear a mask on all forms of enclosed public transportation and in healthcare settings on Department of the Interior lands. Also keep in mind that since additional mask requirements for fully vaccinated visitors may vary by park based on local conditions, it’s important to check park websites for additional information.
As you think about planning a trip to a national park, be sure to check out all of our U.S. National Park coverage.