Want to explore National Parks for free?
National parks offer priceless beauty and for 10 days in 2017 the admission price is just that–priceless. The National Park Service will waive the usual admission over several weekends in 2017. Only 124 of the 417 total national park sites charge admission ($3 to $30) and the remaining sites are free to enter year-round.
With iconic destinations like Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Statue of Liberty National Monument, your family can explore for free. Throw the tent in the SUV and it’s a budget vacation kids will remember for years. Most camping spots are less than $30 a night and even gourmet marshmallows are a bargain when toasted over a campfire.
History of the National Park Service
The idea of a national park is an American innovation that’s been adopted across the world. The first national park, Yellowstone in Wyoming, was set aside in 1872 to protect and preserve it for future generations. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Park Service to govern the 35 national parks in the U.S. at the time.
Since then, the National Park Service has blossomed into 417 national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields and national seashores. Some parks feature vast, iconic scenery like Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Others are recognized for their historical significance like the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
National Parks for Free
The National Park Service charges reasonable fees for their parks, a week in Grand Canyon National Park is $30 for seven days. Though the National Park Service offers several fee-free days sprinkled throughout the year.
Note: Fee-free days does not include user fees like camping, boat launches, shuttle buses, ferry rides, parking fees and tour fees.
Fee Fee Days 2017
|Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday||January 16, 2017|
|Presidents Day||February 20, 2017|
|National Park Weekends||April 15-16 & April 22-23, 2017|
|National Park Service Birthday||August 25, 2017|
|National Public Lands Day||September 30, 2017|
|Veterans Day Weekend||November 11-12, 2017|
If you plan on visiting several national parks, an annual pass might be for you. I found several options and I’ve been an annual pass holder for years.
National Park Service Annual Passes
Type of Pass
|America the Beautiful Pass||All visitors||$80|
|Military Pass||Current U.S. military members and their dependents||Free|
|Every Kid in a Park Pass||10-year-old U.S. students that complete requirements at EveryKidinaPark.gov||Free
Program funded until August 31, 2017
|Senior Lifetime Pass||U.S. citizens and permanent residents 62 years and older||$10 until August 27 then $80 on August 28, 2017|
|Access Pass||U.S. citizens and permanent residents with a permanent disability||Free|
|Volunteer Pass||Visitors volunteering 250 hours a year||Free|
Know Before You Go:
- National Parks are popular destinations during school breaks and holidays. Make reservations as early as possible.
- Reservations for lodging are available 13 months in advance.
- Parking can be an issue at popular destinations during the middle of the day.
- Watch your children at all times, many features have barricades kids can climb over.