Free entrance to America’s National Parks. America’s Best Idea — our national parks — is even better when they’re free! Mark your calendar now for entrance fee-free dates for 2017 and work a free visit into your vacation plans.
On these dates, FREE entrance is available to 124 National Parks across the country that normally charge a fee. During the fee-free days, the parks waive entrance fees.
Other fees such as amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, special tours, and tours, concessions and fees collected by third parties are not included in this promotion.
No Illinois Parks participate
Unfortunately no Illinois parks participate in these free days. You might want to consider these free days when planning a trip. Here’s a list of participating parks.
The ten entrance fee-free days for 2017 will be:
- January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20: Presidents Day
- April 15-16 & April 22-23: National Park Week Weekends
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 30: National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
Parks across the country offer loads of fun activities. Take the kids on a caving adventure, bike ride, kayak tour, hike, or island safari. Catch a campfire talk, make a painting, or witness a living history demonstration. Search the events calendar to find out what’s happening at a park near you! You can help the kids earn a free Junior Ranger badge at almost any park—just ask at the visitor center.
- Cabrillo National Monument in California lies at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, just west of the city of San Diego. The Visitor Center features the “Age of Exploration” exhibit, films, and ranger-guided programs with interesting insights into the history of Cabrillo. Features of the park include views of the harbor and city of San Diego, whale watching in January and February, and birding is popular year round.
- Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah has famous fossil finds, dramatic river canyons, mysterious petroglyphs and endless opportunities for adventure. Kids can earn a special Junior Ranger Paleontology badge by completing age-appropriate activities.
- Yellowstone in Montana 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. Be sure to consult the Yellowstone National Park Trip Planner.
- The Grand Canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona and close to the borders of Utah and Nevada, provides many opportunities to learn about nature, science and history. Take a tour with a park ranger. 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). Use your cell phone for a fun way to learn about the park and listen as park rangers give two-minute audio tours at points of interest on the South Rim. (During winter, South Rim roads are open, but are snow-packed and icy in places. Call 928-638-7496 for updated road conditions recording.)
- 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.
- Especially for Kids. At participating National Parks, kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program. 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 badge.
Entrance fees to extremely popular parks are in the $20 to $30 range for private cars. Many of the smaller parks, historical sites and recreational areas have lower fees, and 265 sites are always free.
- If you visit national parks often, consider getting an annual pass. For $80 a year, the pass gets you into all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and more than 2,000 Federal lands. Pass information here.
- The annual pass is free to all active duty military members and their dependents.
- Seniors, age 62 and over can get a $10 lifetime pass (plus $10 online processing fee). This pass is increasing to $80 in 2017.
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.