Over four hundred of America’s national parks are free everyday. But 118 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
In 2018, the National Park System dramatically cut back on the number of free days. This year things are marginally better, with five free days instead of four–though prior to the 2018 change there were weeks worth of these free admission dates. While things are moving back in the right direction, 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 21, 2019 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 last year, though, you only get in for free on the first day of the celebration. This year, that date is April 20, 2019.
National Park Service Birthday
This is the fifth free day added by NPS this year. To celebrate the National Park Service’s 102nd birthday, you’ll be able to gain free admission to parks on August 25, 2019. There’s even word of some fun activities on this day, so keep your eyes open!
National Public Lands Day
Admission will be free on September 28, 2019 in honor of National Public Lands Day.
You can get into national parks for free in celebration of Veterans Day on November 11, 2019.
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
- Fort McHenry National Memorial/Historic Site in Maryland (This is where the lyrics to our national anthem were written.)
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.
Free National Park Admission in Canada
In 2017, Canada was giving away free national park passes in honor of their nation’s 150th birthday. That program has ended, but there are still a couple ways to get in for free.
The first is via a Cultural Access Pass. These are reserved for those who have become Canadian citizens in the past year.
A new program was rolled out in2018 that allows anyone under 17 years of age into national parks for free. It continues in 2019. 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.