Over four hundred of America’s national parks are free everyday. But nearly 125 of them aren’t. Luckily, the park system does offer free days, so you can go enjoy our beautiful country while remaining completely and totally frugal.
National Park Free Entrance Days for 2019
Prior to 2018, there were weeks-worth of free National Park Days. But in the years since, the number has been cut down to just five days. If you want to visit on a free entrance day, you’re going to have to plan a little more carefully.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Fees will be waived on January 16, 2023 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
First Day of National Park Week
Before 2018, there were five free days in the month of April recognizing National Park Week. Ever since, though, you only get in for free on the first day of the celebration. This year, that date is April 22, 2023.
Great American Outdoors Act Day
To celebrate the 2020 passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, you’ll be able to gain free admission to parks on August 4, 2023.
National Public Lands Day
Admission will be free on September 23, 2023 in honor of National Public Lands Day.
You can get into national parks for free in celebration of Veterans Day on November 11, 2023.
Which National Parks require an entrance fee?
I’ve been lucky to travel a good bit in my time. National parks always bring such a sense of awe and wonder. It’s one thing to wander around in the woods in your backyard. It’s a completely different thing to spend time in pristine, protected wilderness.
Some of my favorite national parks that will be waiving their fees on free days are:
- Acadia National Park in Maine
- Yellowstone in Wyoming/Idaho
- The Badlands in South Dakota
- The Wright Brothers Memorial in North Carolina
- Arches National Park in Utah
There’s a ton of others, too. I was surprised to find the ones in my own back yard that I never knew existed. To find some near you, you can check out the National Park Service’s website.
Free Entry to National Parks Year Round
If you fall into any of the following demographics, you can get a free national park pass. You only need one per vehicle to get into the park, so if anyone in your family falls into one of these categories, you could theoretically get the entire clan in for free.
- You are a US citizen with a documented disability.
- You are a 4th grader. Eligibility starts on your first day of fourth grade and ends on your first day of fifth grade.
- You are a member of the military or a military dependent.
- You are a federal lands volunteer with at least 250 hours under your belt.
Not-Free Annual Pass
Depending on how often you visit national parks, it might make sense to invest in an annual pass. there are different prices for different parts of the population.
Annual Pass – $80
This is the pass for the vast majority of the populace. You’ll have to pay an $80 annual fee, and you can get it if you are:
- An American citizen between the ages of 16 — 62.
- An international visitor.
If you’re just visiting one park that has a per-car fee, this pass might not save you money. But if you’re doing multiple entries or visiting multiple parks, it might keep some cash in your wallet.
Senior Annual Pass – $20
If you’re age 62 or over, you can get the annual pass for just $20 — which is far more likely to save you money over the $80/year option.
Senior Lifetime Pass – $80
Want the senior pass to last beyond this year? You can pay $80 once and hold it for the rest of your life, which is a pretty great deal. You can only get this pass if you’re age 62 or older.
Getting into Canadian National Parks for Free
The first way to get into Canadian national parks for free is via a Canoo mobile app. This method is reserved for those who have become Canadian citizens in the past year, or immigrated to Canada in the past year.
The second way to get into Canadian National Parks for free is to be young! Anyone under 17 years of age can get into national parks for free all the time. Find out more about the youth program here.
We’d love to hear about your national park experiences! Tell us about them in the comments section.