America’s Best Idea — our national parks — is even better when admission is free! Mark your calendar now for entrance fee-free dates for the coming year. On these dates, FREE entrance is available to 133 National Parks across the country that normally charge a fee.
During the fee-free days, the parks waive entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservations, camping, tours, concessions and fees collected by third parties are not included in this promotion.
2021 National Parks entrance fee-free dates
- January 18: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- April 17: First day of National Park Week
- August 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 25: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
Here is just a sample of what you can do during Free Entrance Days in the National Parks:
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan has miles of beach and a diverse ecosystem with beach, forest, wetlands and more. Snowshoe in the snow, canoe or swim in the summer, visit the Manitou Islands, and enjoy the dunes and nature no matter what season.
Yosemite in California is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.
Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah has famous fossil finds, dramatic river canyons, mysterious petroglyphs and endless opportunities for adventure.
Yellowstone National Park is our nation’s first National Park. Popular activities include picnicking, fishing and hiking. The park features the largest active geyser field in the world, including Old Faithful, along with amazing wildlife.
The Grand Canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona and close to the borders of Utah and Nevada, is one of the must-sees in life. Take a tour with a park ranger, or hit the trails yourself. Visit one of the many Information Centers. Watch a park orientation film (it starts every half hour from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily). South Rim is open all year, North Rim is closed in the winter.
Padre Island National Seashore southeast of the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and a haven for 380 bird species. It also has a rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.
Everglades National Park in Florida is America’s third largest National Park at 1.5 million acres. The park provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther. Popular activities include photographing birds, hiking and observing wildlife, and ranger-guided tours.
Other National Parks Programs
Junior Ranger Program
At participating National Parks, kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program, where they’ll learn the importance of the official motto “Explore, Learn, and Protect!”. Participating parks provide a FREE booklet that describes all sorts of age-appropriate activities in the park. When they’ve completed the tasks, they are awarded an official Junior Ranger patch.
Every Kids Outdoors – Free passes for 4th graders (5th graders included through August 2021)
In addition to free days, any fourth grade student can get a free annual pass through the Every Kid Outdoors program, and active duty and reserve military can also get free passes. For more information about the variety of discounted passes available, please visit the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass page.
Many 4th graders missed out on using their Every Kid Outdoors Annual 4th Grade Pass during the 2019-2020 school year. A new voucher is now available for 5th grade students for the rest of the school year!
With this voucher, 5th graders and their families will have free access to national parks and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior from October 28, 2020 through August 31, 2021.
Free Entrance to National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families
Beginning on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020, Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans receive free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests. The free access program is a way to thank America’s veterans and Gold Star families for their support of our country and to encourage them to explore recreational opportunities on their public lands and waters.
The entrance fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits or special tours.
To qualify, please show a form of ID
- Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)
- (VHIC) Veteran Health Identification Card
- Veteran ID Card
- Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card
- Gold Star Family voucher (download here)
National Parks Senior Pass
Available for: U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship. See details here.
$80 Lifetime Senior Pass
$20 Annual Senior Pass. The pass is valid for one year from the date of issuance. Four annual Senior Passes purchased in prior years can be traded in for a lifetime pass.
The Senior Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services.
The Senior Pass generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.
Golden Age Passports are no longer sold. However, these passes will continue to be honored according to the provisions of the pass.
National Parks Annual Pass
Entrance fees to extremely popular parks are in the $20 to $25 range for private cars. Many of the smaller parks, historical sites and recreational areas have lower fees, and over 250 sites are always free. Another way to save if you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, is to consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands – more than 2,000 in all.
Find a Park by going to the National Park Service website and using the search tool or interactive map. You can search for parks in your state or parks that feature activities you like, such as camping, fishing or hiking, as well as educational programs and historic sites.
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