Every year, the federal government offers free admission to visitors of national parks on April 20 to kick off National Park Week, which runs for nine days until April 28. This initiative aims to encourage more people to explore and appreciate the natural beauty and historical significance of these protected areas. With the National Park Service overseeing 429 park sites across the U.S., including 63 national parks, there is no shortage of opportunities for adventure and discovery.

Exploring a Variety of Sites

While most national park sites offer free entrance all year round, there are 108 parks that do not, including iconic locations like Grand Canyon, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Acadia, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, and Glacier national parks. On free entrance days like April 20, visitors can save on entrance fees that typically range from $20 to $35 per vehicle, depending on the park. It’s important to note that fee structures can vary, with some parks charging per person instead of per vehicle and additional fees for motorcycles, for instance.

In addition to April 20, there are five other days throughout the year when access to all national parks is free: Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on January 15, Juneteenth on June 19, the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act on August 4, National Public Lands Day on September 28, and Veterans Day on November 11. These designated free days offer a chance for more people to enjoy the natural wonders of national parks without the barrier of entrance fees.

While entrance to national parks may be free on these special days, some parks still require visitors to make reservations for entry, which can come with an additional fee. For example, Yosemite National Park in California mandates reservations for driving into or through the park during peak hours on certain days of the year. These reservations cost $2, are nonrefundable, and are valid for three consecutive days. It’s important for visitors to plan ahead and make reservations to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

For frequent visitors or those planning to explore multiple national parks in a year, purchasing an annual national park pass for $80 may be a cost-effective option. This pass grants unlimited entrance to national parks and other federal recreation areas, offering convenience and savings in the long run. Additionally, some groups may qualify for reduced-price or free annual passes, making it even more accessible for all to enjoy the beauty of national parks.

Final Thoughts

Taking advantage of free admission days at national parks is a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature, learn about history, and create lasting memories with loved ones. Whether you visit on April 20 or one of the other designated free days, the experience of exploring these incredible protected areas is truly priceless. By planning ahead, considering pass options, and embracing the wonders of national parks, you can embark on unforgettable adventures and support the preservation of these natural treasures for future generations to enjoy.


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