What can you do this summer, or any other time of year when there is nothing else to do? Even if you have something else to do, you may want to drop everything and visit a National Park near you.
There are plenty of reasons to visit one or as many of our National Parks as possible and FREE admission is just another great reason to go. Of the 400 parks in the National Park System, 117 of them (and needless to say, the most well known, popular and geographically accessible) charge an entrance fee and may also have other fees for day use activities and services. General admission ranges anywhere from $3.00 to $30.00 per person or per vehicle, depending on the park and sometimes the time of year.
But don't let these fees damper your style. There are ten days per year that you can get into each and every National Park for absolutely FREE… and you know we're going to tell you how. Of course, as with many admissions fee schedules, children under 4 are free anytime.
Let's start with National Park Week. It generally falls around Earth Day - for example, this year (2017), it was held April 15-23 and the free admission days were honored on those weekends (April 15-16 and 22-23, respectively). Earth Day is April 22, every year. The National Park Service partners with the National Park Foundation to bring this 'event' to the public, annually, where special programs are presented system wide on select days throughout the week. The Junior Ranger Day gets kids involved in programs that are ongoing throughout the year and the Park Rx Day promotes good health and health awareness through the Surgeon General's "Step It Up" campaign that calls for people to walk and get their communities involved in walking as exercise for good health. Not to mention the Earth Day celebration and other weeklong activities and projects.
Active Duty Military members and their dependents are also eligible for FREE admission to all National Parks year round.
Free admission to one of our beautiful and majestic National Parks comes free to a few of us at other times of the year, or forever, too!
Fourth-grade students can receive a free annual pass from September through August of the respective level school year at ten years old. This falls under the "Every Kid in a Park" program created by the National Park System. This is also good for homeschoolers and free learners, with proper verification. Educators and parents are encouraged to get involved!
If you are verifiably, permanently disabled, you can obtain a FREE Access Pass. This pass may also qualify some amenities and services for a 50% discount. You can mail the application, found on the National Park Service website in PDF format, or get one in person at select parks.
Active Duty Military members and their dependents are also eligible for FREE admission to all National Parks year round. This includes Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, as well as Reserve and National Guard members. The active member must obtain the pass in person at any federal recreation site that issues passes with a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
Finally, you can volunteer your way to free admission at all of our National Parks through the Interagency Pass Program. After 250 volunteer service hours with any federal agency that participates in the program, including the National Park Service itself, you will become eligible for a Free Volunteer Pass. You can sign up at Volunteer.gov.
If you don't qualify for a free admission pass or can't arrange your schedule to go on those dates when admission is free, there are discounts available too!
Seniors (62 and over) can purchase a lifetime pass for $10.00. This pass may also include a 50% discount on some other fees within the park systems such as camping, boating and other specialty services. There are several ways to purchase the pass, check the website for details.
To save money, annual passes are definitely cheaper if you plan to visit several parks within one year. $80.00 covers a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at sites that charge as such, or it covers up to four adults at sites that charge per person!
Otherwise, FREE Admission days for 2017… even though a few have passed, will come again next year.
Passed 2017 Free Admission Days
- January 16 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20 - President's Day
- April 15-16 and 22-23 - weekends of National Park Week
Upcoming 2017 Free Admission Days
- August 25 - National Park Service Birthday
- September 30 - National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12 - Veterans Day Weekend
Now get out there and get to know America, for FREE!