How to visit USA National Parks for FREE + Annual Passes 101

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

John Muir
How to visit USA National Parks for FREE + Annual Passes 101

The National Park System manages over 85 million acres of land, which includes 62 national parks (as of January 2021)! In recent years they have added a few national parks, giving them the promotion from national monument to national park, such as White Sands National Park and Pinnacles National Park! This past year I had the opportunity to visit nine national parks and have learned a few tricks and tips on how to make your next visit to a national park more affordable. I hope these tips inspire you to visit a national park this year and spend more time outdoors!

How to visit USA National Parks for FREE + Annual Passes 101

Every year the National Park Service offers several fee-free entrance days to honor key events and provide the public an affordable way to enjoy the national park system! Here are the six days in 2021 that you can visit a national park completely FREE:

  • January 18: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 17: The first day of National Park Week (April 17-25)
  • August 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • August 25: The National Park Service’s Birthday
  • September 25: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
How to visit USA National Parks for FREE + Annual Passes 101
How to visit USA National Parks for FREE + Annual Passes 101

You can also obtain one of the following passes or visit with someone who owns a pass to help reduce the cost of entering a national park. This past year I visited 9 national parks in one year, so it made sense to purchase the $80 Annual Pass which led to each national park fee being less than $10 each! This is huge when a 7-day pass for Yellowstone and Grand Tetons are $35 each! Here are the pass options to help reduce your cost if you don’t visit on a fee-free day::

  1. Annual Pass: $80
  2. Military Pass: Free
  3. Annual 4th Grade Pass: Free with a valid Every Kid Outdoors paper pass
  4. Senior Pass: $80 Lifetime or $20 Annual for individuals 62+ who are USA or permanent residents
  5. Access Pass: Free for those with permanent disabilities
  6. Volunteer Pass: Free with 250 service hours

*For additional details and the most up to date information on National Park Service Passes, refer to their website.

I hope this list of free dates and passes will motivate you to visit a national park on any budget, spend more time outdoors, and experience the beauty that life has to offer!

With wanderlust,

Haley

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