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Visiting the U.S. National Parks is an unforgettable experience. We are lucky to have some of the most beautiful spots in the country set aside for our enjoyment. Obviously, there are expenses with keeping National Parks up and running. But that doesn’t make it any more fun to pay the high fees to visit. Lucky for you there are free entrance days in the National Parks.
Wait, You Can Get Into National Parks for Free?!
It might be hard to believe there are free entrance days in the National Parks. But it is true! In 2021 there are not one, not two, but SIX days you can get in for free.
About the Free Entrance Days in the National Parks
In 2020 there were five days you could enjoy National Park free days. Now, this year, the National Park Service is increasing the count to six days. In 2021 you can get free entrance to the National Parks on the following days.
January 18th: MLK Jr. Day
April 17th: First Day of National Park Week
August 4th: First Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act (This date is new this year. We don’t know if it will stick around. But for people with summer vacation, it is great to get free entrance this summer!)
August 25th: National Park Service Birthday
September 25th: National Public Lands Day
November 11th: Veterans Day
On any of these days, you can enjoy free entrance to any of the U.S. National Parks. Normally there is a fee to enter most parks and an annual pass costs $80. So you’ll definitely save a pretty penny by planning your trip accordingly.
Keep in mind, free days are busy days! Everyone else will also look forward to a free entrance day. So if you want to beat the crowds, plan to wake up bright and early!
What Does The Free Entrance Cover on Fee-Free Days?
Free entrance days to the National Parks covers just the park entrance fee. If you want to take advantage of certain amenities or activities, you still must pay for those. This might include things like boating, special tours, transportation, and so on.
How to Save On Entrance Fees In National Parks Any Day
If you aren’t able to visit on one of these days, you still have a great money-saving opportunity. Regular National Park visitors (cough cough, RVers) can save by buying an annual National Parks Pass.
Usually, entrance fees cost between $20 and $35 per vehicle. At some places, your pass may be good for just a single day. Others last up to 7 days. This varies depending on the park. But an annual National Parks Pass costs just $80 and is good at every National Park in the U.S.
Buying an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass lets you waive the entrance fees any day. Obviously, you have the upfront cost. But after just 3 visits to most parks, your pass will have paid for itself. After that, it is like getting to visit for free any day of the year! The pass even provides you with admission to all Federal Recreational Lands as well. You’ll be able to access over 2,000 locations with this pass.
You can buy a National Parks Pass onsite at most National Parks. If you want to come prepared though, you can also but your pass in advance. You can buy via phone at 888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747), extension 2. You can also buy online at the USGS Store.
In addition, certain groups can get a discounted annual or lifetime pass. Seniors, military members, and individuals with disabilities qualify for reduced or free passes. If you volunteer for at least 250 hours at certain agencies, you can also get a free pass to the National Parks.
Benefits of Getting a National Parks Pass
Although it is fun to visit on a free entrance day in the National Parks, there are benefits to buying a pass. First, a National Parks pass will save you money in the long run if you visit over 3-4 times a year.
Another benefit is the option to visit whenever you want. As we said, free days are crowded! If you want to beat the crowds, the best way is by buying a pass and visiting in off-peak times.
Buying a National Parks pass ensures parks continue to be available for the public. At least 80% of fees stay within the park where you pay your fee. These fees support management, park upkeep, security, amenities, and more. You directly benefit from the fees paid to a National Park when you visit.
See Your National Parks
If you are planning a trip this year like our California National Park Road Trip, planning around free entrance days in the National Parks is a smart move. However, if you don’t have the luxury of perfect timing, there are still ways to save money. Buying a National Parks annual pass is the best way to do that.
If you are an RVer, you probably get around. Buying a National Parks pass might just make sense. After all, the U.S. National Parks are breathtaking. If they aren’t already on your list of places to go, they should be!