August 25 will be a special day at the more than 400 national park sites spread across the U.S.
Here’s why: August 25, which is the National Park Service’s “Birthday,” 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
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.
On that day in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service. The new bureau was assigned the task of managing the 35 national parks and monuments that had already been established.
Today the National Park Service manages more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.
Other Free Days
Don’t worry if you can’t visit a national park on August 25 — there are more fee-free days this year.
The next fee-free day is National Public Lands Day, on Saturday, September 25. The final fee-free day this year is Veterans Day, on Thursday, November 11.
It’s important to note that every day is a free day at national parks for some people. That’s because free passes to national parks are available for U.S. military veterans and Gold Star Families, current members of the military, fourth-grade students through August 31, students who were in fifth-grade last year and their families through August 31, 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 Find A Park website here.
Secondly, to help avoid overcrowding, the park service now requires entry reservations at some of its most popular destinations, including Yosemite National Park. When you’re making plans to visit a national park, be sure to check that park’s website to see if entry reservations are required.
Finally, as you plan your trip (or trips!) to a national park, keep in mind that the National Park Service now requires all visitors, employees, and contractors to wear a mask while inside all National Park Service buildings and when they are in crowded outdoor spaces, such as narrow or busy trails and scenic overlooks. The mandate applies to everyone regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status or community transmission levels. A mask is also required for everyone while on public transportation.
As you think about planning a trip to a national park, be sure to check out all of our U.S. National Park coverage.