Visiting a National Park is a priceless experience. But thankfully, a National Park vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, there are several ways to visit National Parks for free. Here’s one way to visit National Parks for free- In celebration of the National Park Service turning 100 years old in 2016, sixteen fee-free days were just announced for the upcoming year. And while a visit to any of our amazing National Parks is always a bargain and worth every penny of its entrance fee, a chance to visit National Parks for free makes it even better. Our National Parks are simply amazing and we are blessed in the U.S. to have so many unforgettable parks to explore a huge diversity of scenery, climates, ecosystems and wildlife. In fact, there are 409 parks located across the country managed by the National Park Service, so you are sure to be kept busy trying to explore them all. These are OUR parks and we are unbelievably lucky to have them. And this year, we are even luckier to all have 16 days to visit National Parks for free!
January 18- Free Entrance in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
April 16-24- Celebrate National Park Week with free entrance days all week long.
August 25-28- Celebrate the National Park Service’s Anniversary with free entrance all four days.
September 24- Free Entrance in honor of National Public Lands Day
November 11- Free Entrance in honor of Veterans Day
There are 127 National Parks that normally charge an entrance fee that will be free to visit for these 16 days. Participating parks that typically charge an entrance fee are listed here, but on the fee free days listed above, these parks will not charge an entrance fee.
Other Ways to Visit National Parks for Free-
Every Kid in a Park-
There is another exciting way to visit National Parks for free this year. Starting at the beginning of the 2015-1016 school year, every interested family with a 4th grade student can obtain a free annual National Park pass through the Every Kid in a Park program. If you have a 4th grader in your family, hurry up and get your free pass at www.everykidinapark.gov. You’ve got 409 parks to explore and time is a wasting! I love this program for so many reasons. First of all, anything that encourages 4th graders and their families to get outside and explore our natural world is a win in my book. An added bonus is the fact that young children who visit our National Parks and fall in love with them grow up to be adults who love the parks and do what they can to protect them. And that is AWESOME.
Fee Free Every Single Day-
Did you know that only 127 out of 409 National Parks typically charge an entrance fee? Parks that typically charge an entrance fee are listed here, the rest are free every single day. That means you can visit 282 different parks any time you want, absolutely free. Like I said, we are amazingly blessed to have such and amazing National Park Service! Browse the National Park Service website for an abundance of information on all of our parks and plan a visit today.
Military Annual Pass-
A free annual Interagency pass for U.S. Military (Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard) and their dependents is available. Passes are available at any of these National Park sites with a Military ID card or a Common Access Card.
A free annual Interagency pass is available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have a permanent disability. Click here for an application. With the application, the pass can be obtained at any of these Federal Recreation Areas for free. There is a $10 fee if the pass is requested through the mail, but no charge if picked up in person.
A free annual interagency pass is available for volunteers who have given 250 hours of their time with various federal agencies. For more information about how to obtain this pass, visit Volunteer.gov. Another great reason to volunteer!
None of these apply? Don’t despair!
America the Beautiful Interagency Pass-
If you can’t visit during any of the fee free days and you don’t meet the requirements for any of the free Interagency Passes listed above, don’t despair! You may be unable to visit National Parks for free, but they are still a bargain for any visitor. Entrance fees range from $3 to $30 for a whole car of visitors. Better yet, get an America the Beautiful annual pass like we always do. For only $80, an America the Beautiful pass provides access for one full year to more than 2,000 recreation areas managed by federal agencies for two adults. Parks that charge a per vehicle fee allow everyone in the non commercial vehicle to enter on one pass and parks that charge a per person fee allow up to four adults to enter on one pass. Children under the age of 16 are always admitted free. For only 80 bucks you can visit any of our amazing National Parks for free for an entire year! In my opinion, that is an unbelievable bargain.
Why Visit a National Park?
There is NOTHING like a visit to our National Parks and our family has been fortunate enough to have visited many of them where we have made memories we will never forget. Click through the following links to read about some of our most memorable trips. From well known giants like Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains and Zion to hidden treasures like Joshua Tree, Great Basin and Isle Royale, we love OUR parks and are passionate about learning through them and protecting them. I can’t wait to visit some of these amazing treasures this year!
Happy 100th Anniversary to the National Park Service!
On August 25th, the National Park Service will be observing Founder’s Day and celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Our National Parks have truly changed my life and I am so excited to celebrate with them! Join me in letting them know how much they mean to us by signing their Birthday Card here. Better yet, let’s honor the National Park system with a gift of support which will help protect these amazing areas for generations to come.
Resources for planning a visit to a National Park:
First of all, check out nps.gov to find an abundance of trip planning information. Some of my favorites National Park Guides are National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States and Fodor’s The Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West. If you are looking for inspiration, check out a book Dave bought me for Christmas last year that I absolutely treasure for both the history it tells and the beautiful pictures-The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.