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How to get free admission to National Parks

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Couple walking with young child on hiking path in national park.

The entrance fee for most US National Parks is between $25 to $30 per vehicle — but if you don’t want to pay that, you’ve got options. Here’s the lowdown on how to get into a National Park for free.

Are National Parks open during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, National Parks in the US are currently open, with safety measures in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Search by state on the NPS website to learn about restrictions that might affect your visit, such as reduced daily hours and limited campground space.

How can I get free admission to National Parks?

Skip the entrance fee by visiting a National Park on a free day. There are five free days each year, including:

  • January 20: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • April 18: First day of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 26: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

You can also get free admission to National Parks by becoming a Bank of America cardholder. You’ll get free admission to museums and cultural centers the first weekend of each month through its Museums on Us program.

Other free ways to get outdoors

The Every Kid Outdoors program offers free admission to parks and historic landmarks for children who just completed fourth grade and their families (and starting in September, those entering fourth grade). Sites are in nearly every state and span land and sea — the list includes the Florida Keys, The Gateway Arch in St. Louis and Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC. The program aims to allow children to discover natural wildlife and our nation’s history.

Which states have National Parks?

National Parks featuring sights like geysers, giant redwoods and plenty of wildlife are in 30 states and two US territories. Those are:

  • Alaska
  • American Samoa
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virgin Islands
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Can I go camping at National Parks for free?

No. Even on free days, you’ll need to pay to go car camping, which costs between $15 to $30 at National Parks. That said, camping on National Forest land, which is often close to National Parks, is always free — though you won’t have perks like running water or electricity.

The same goes for RV camping. While you can save about $35, the average cost of entry, by visiting a National Park on a free day, you’ll still need to budget the cost of staying overnight.

Bottom line

Taking advantage of free entry to National Parks can be a huge perk for budget-conscious travelers. But whether or not you have to pay an entry fee, visiting National Parks is bound to be an enriching part of any US travel adventure.

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