Visit National Parks without paying entry fees

Tomi Stojanovic

Whether you go on a camping trip for few days, or just enter to hike for few hours, there’s always an entrance fee for every National Park. Although the price varies depending on which Park you visit, there is always an entry fee. There are a few options where you can get a good deal such as an annual pass, a group pass, or even a pass with discount.

But, luckily for us all, there are few days during the year when you can enter the National Parks for free. Whether you want to go on hiking and backpacking trips, or set up a tent or take in an RV, you have the option to do it with no entrance fee. All you have to do is to plan your trips ahead, and know when and where to go.

Although the entrance is free, you will still have to pay any campsite, tours, reservations, and incidental fees.

National parks no fee days

Entry to Mt. Rainier National Park
Entry to Mt. Rainier National Park

There are few specific days during the year where you could enter in any of the 124 national parks for free. Make sure that you mark your calendar for these free entry days:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20: Presidents’ Day
  • April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Even though we have missed the first two, there are still plenty of free entry days to visit, and as long as you look up the dates for next year, you can take advantage then.

Within these dates, you can enter every National Park in every state. Starting from parks like Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Olympic National Park in Washington state, to more famous ones, like Yosemite and Yellowstone. The best thing is that you could stay for up to 14 days without any entrance fee if you enter the park on the fee-free days.

Tips on how to best use the free entry days

Breathtaking landscape
Breathtaking landscape

Each year interest in visiting the National Parks grows higher, and more and more people decide to go on a vacation or short trips in one of them. The National Park Service stated that in 2015 around 305 million individuals visited the America’s parks.

It’s expected that the number was higher in 2016, and it will be even higher in 2017. So, you should carefully plan ahead for your trips if you want to get a chance to enter with no fee. Here are three tips to have in mind when planning your next visit:

1. Mark you calendar

Make sure you check the calendar before heading out on your trip
Make sure you check the calendar before heading out on your trip

When you plan your trip, make sure you check when is the first day you can reserve a campsite. Most of the national parks allow you to make a reservation six months before your arrival. For example, if you want to visit Yellowstone for the National Public Lands Day in September, you can make your reservations now. Just make sure that you check if the park you want to go to allows reservations.

2. Avoid popular parks during busy season

Nobody wants to get stuck in a crowded park
Nobody wants to get stuck in a crowded park

Many visitors try to enter a National Park without fee, and they usually go to the more popular ones in summer. Because of that, there aren’t enough campsites available during those days, and if there are, they are crowded, loud, and not the most pleasant experience.

To feel more relaxed and chill, make sure that you visit a famous National Parks during the less popular season. So, instead of visiting Glacier National Parks in August, visit it in September for the National Public Lands Day.

3. Go to less popular parks

Less popular parks will offer you a more calm and relaxed trip
Less popular parks will offer you a more calm and relaxed trip

If you want to spend few days in nature, but not to be bothered by crowds and lots of vehicles, then you should visit parks you haven’t heard of. Many National Parks offer beautiful locations, landscapes, and trails. So, instead of visiting a popular one, you could go to North Cascades, Congaree, Gates of the Arctic, or many other National Parks.

The more National Parks you visit, the better for you. Plan your trip, pack your bags and equipment, and have fun exploring the nature around you. For more information about parks, campsites, and free entry days, make sure you visit the official website of the National Park Service.

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tomi-stojanovik is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival