America’s Best Idea—the national parks—is even better when it’s free!
Every year, the National Parks Service waives normal admission fees on certain special periods, including National Parks Week, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
The exact number of fee-free days varies from year to year: In 2015, there were a total of nine free days.
In 2016, when the National Park Service celebrated its 100th year anniversary, visitors received a special bonus of 16 fee-free days at all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee.
Combine great scenery and history with great savings and visit a national park for free on one of 10 fee free days in 2017.
The 2017 free entrance days for 2016 at National Park Service sites are:
- January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20: Presidents Day
- April 15-16 and 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
Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates.
“National parks are known for their priceless beauty,” said National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
“They are a bargain anytime but on these 10 days in 2017, they really will be priceless. We want everyone to visit their national parks and the fee free days provide extra incentive to experience these amazing places.”
During the fee-free days, all National Park Service sites will waive their entrance fees for all visitors. Usually, 124 of the 413 national parks charge entrance fees that range from $3 to $30. The other 289 sites do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.
To continue the national park adventure beyond these fee free days, the $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 sites, including all national parks, throughout the year. There are also a variety of free or discounted passes available for seniors, current military members, and disabled citizens.
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.”
Today, the National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 413 sites with 28 different designations, including national park, national historical park, national monument, national recreation area, national battlefield, and national seashore. Collectively, these sites contain more than 18,000 miles of trails, 27,000 historic and prehistoric structures, 247 species of threatened and endangered species, and 167 million museum items.
There is at least one national park in every state.
Last year, 307 million people visited a national park. They spent $16.9 billion which supported 295,000 jobs and had a $32 billion impact on the U.S. economy.
But the impact doesn’t stop there. In addition to national parks, the National Park Service works with tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and businesses across the country to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Programs such as the National Register of Historic Places, National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Historic Landmarks, National Trails, and the Rivers, Trails, Conservation Assistance Program revitalize communities, preserve local history, celebrate local heritage, and provide places for children and families to get outside, be active, and have fun.
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.
—Wallace Stegner, 1983