Every day at a national park is a good day. But, on some occasions, it’s also a free day.
The National Park Service (NPS) recently announced 5 free days at its parks. Free days are (thoughtfully) timed with national holidays from January through November. Why offer free days? The NPS seeks to broaden the public’s awareness of national parks and all they offer.
“National parks are really amazing places, and we want everyone to experience them,” said Chuck Sams, director of the NPS. “The entrance fee-free days encourage people to discover the beauty, history, and inspiration awaiting them in more than 400 national parks throughout the country.”
What Days Are Free?
The following are free entry days in 2023:
- January 16: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- April 22: First day of National Park Week
- August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- September 23: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
What National Parks Charge An Entrance Fee?
You can access most national parks for free. Out of the 400-plus national parks in the country, “only” about 100 charge entrance fees, ranging from $5–$35. I say “only” because there’s a caveat — these parks are the most popular in the system. They include Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona), Yosemite National Park (California), Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (Wyoming), Acadia National Parks (Maine), and Everglades National Park (Florida).
Save Money At Multiple Federal Parks And Recreation Sites
Don’t despair if you can’t make it to a park on one of the free days. You can save on entrance fees year-round at over 2,000 sites with National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes, including the following:
America The Beautiful Pass
This annual pass is a steal at $80. You’ll enjoy unlimited access to federal recreation areas, including all national parks. See this brochure (PDF) for more information. The pass includes a car with up to four adults. Kids 15 and under are free.
Lifetime National Park Service Senior Pass
The Senior Pass is even more of a bargain than the America the Beautiful Pass! For just $80 (plus a $10 processing fee), enjoy a lifetime of free entry! You must be 62 years or older and a legal resident of the United States. The free admission covers a car with up to four adults; again, children 15 and younger are always free. The lifetime Senior Pass includes discounts on some amenity fees, i.e., campground reservation fees and guided tour fees. Check with individual national park locations to verify benefits.
Annual Fourth Grade Pass
Here’s a good one! Your fourth-grade child or grandchild can finally carry their weight! Fourth graders and their cars loaded with family members enter for free during the school year and the following summer (September–August) with this pass. To get the pass, go to the Every Kid Outdoors website. Follow the steps to print out the paper voucher with your child’s unique code. Then, take the paper pass to a Federal recreation area, such as a national park, and get the free Annual 4th-Grade Pass.
Current military personnel (and dependents) qualify for a free annual pass. Veterans and Gold Star families may also be eligible. Visit the NPS for more information.
Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2023 are the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Want to learn more about our national parks? See these TravelAwaits articles: