Ever wanted to sneak into your favorite national park for free? Here soon, you’ll be able to, if only for a day. And there’s no actual sneaking involved.
Every year on Veterans Day, the National Park Service opens up all of the sites that it manages for free entry. The holiday once garnered even more free entry opportunities, opening up parks for free for two days over the weekend. This year visitors will be able to enter any national park site of their choosing free of charge, helping them avoid entry fees that can run as high as $35 a vehicle in some parks.
Plus, Veterans Day isn’t even the only day of the year when this occurs. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about fee-free days in the national parks.
The National Park Service’s Fee-Free Days
For many, many years, the National Park Service has chosen days each year in which they open up all national parks, monuments, lakeshores, battlefields, historic sites, and other locations managed by the Park Service for free entry. While some of these locations are free to visit every day of the year, others, including most of the national parks, carry a fee. This fee varies from one park to the next. It could be as low as just $5 for individuals to walk into the park or as high as $35 for a family vehicle to enter.
For instance, a few of the most popular national parks in the nation charge the following fees for all but a few days a year:
- Acadia National Park charges $30 per vehicle or $15 per person
- Glacier National Park charges $35 per vehicle or $20 per person
- Grand Canyon National Park charges $35 per vehicle or $20 per person
- Olympic National Park charges $30 per vehicle or $10 per person
- Yellowstone National Park charges $35 per vehicle or $20 per person
- Yosemite National Park charges $35 per vehicle or $20 per person
- Zion National Park charges $35 per vehicle or $20 per person
If you want to avoid these fees, you’ll want to head to these parks on one of the fee-free days. Some years, the National Park Service has designated as many as 16 days to feature free entry into the parks. More recently, there have been just 5 days a year.
In 2019, those days included Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on January 21, the first day of National Park Week on April 20, the National Park Service’s birthday on August 25, National Public Lands Day on September 28, and, of course, the upcoming Veterans Day on November 11.
Veterans Day in the National Parks
On Monday, November 11, the National Park Service has designated a fee-free entry. This means that families across the nation can remember and celebrate veterans of our armed forces by visiting the public lands, a benefit of the freedom that they fought so hard for.
The Veterans Day holiday technically turns 100 years old this year. The first Veterans Day, which at the time was called Armistice Day, was celebrated on November 11, 1919. It was created to recognize the 1-year anniversary of the end of World War I. The day became an annual day of observance in 1926, and a national holiday in 1938, when the name was also changed to Veterans Day.
2020’s Upcoming Fee-Free Days
If you can’t make it to a national park this coming Veterans Day, or if you just want to enjoy some more free entry into the parks, you’re in luck; 2020 already has 5 fee-free days on the calendar.
This year, the National Park Service’s fee-free days will fall on the following:
- The birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 20
- The first day of National Park Week on April 18
- The National Park Service’s birthday on August 25
- National Public Lands Day on September 26
- Veterans Day on November 11
Other Ways to Save Money When Visiting the National Parks
Fee-free days aren’t the only way that you can save on entrance fees to our nation’s national parks. The Park Service also offers an annual pass that allows you to pay one fee and enjoy free visits to any national parks, battlefields, lakeshore, monument, etc. for an entire year.
The America the Beautiful Annual Pass costs $80. With it, you’ll get 12 months of free entry starting the month you purchase the pass. This pass is available free of charge to all current members of the U.S. military and their dependents and those living with permanent disabilities. This pass gives the cardholder and up to three members of the same vehicle free entry into any National Park Service site that charges an entrance fee.
Seniors aged 62 or older can get an $80 pass that allows for entry into the parks for the rest of their lives. They can also opt for a $20 annual pass instead. United States students in the 4th grade, or who are 10-years of age but homeschooled, can also get a free annual pass.
Visiting the National Parks
Visiting your favorite national park is a wonderful way to celebrate the freedom that veterans have fought for. Whether you choose to visit Capitol Reef National Park or any other national park service site this holiday, take a moment to thank the veterans in your life for making it possible for our country to care for our natural treasures.