Photo: National Park Service/Dan Abbe/ Collection

Every National Park Has Free Entry on This Gorgeous Spring Saturday (and It's Not the Only One This Year)

Outdoor National Parks
by Elisabeth Sherman Apr 4, 2022

Getting into whatever national park you with will come free on April 16. Just in time for Earth Day, all national parks across the United States have free entry on the third Saturday in April. And it’s not the only one.

Accessing national parks isn’t as easy as striding down the nearest path clad in hiking boots and sunscreen: annual pass fees range from $35 to $60, and even one-time visits are usually $20 to $35 per vehicle. Even though park fees go toward maintaining trails, paying staff, and protecting habitats and animals, the fees can still add up, and the cost of admission (and other associated park fees) is often given as a contributing factor to why park visitors are overwhelmingly white.

However, the National Park Service wants to offer everyone access to their public lands regardless of budget concerns. That’s why the Park Service announced five national park free entry days in 2022, giving everyone the chance to experience the majesty and grandeur of America’s national parks.

The following days will be national park free entry days:

  • Monday, January 17 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 
  • Saturday, April 16 – First day of National Park week
  • Thursday, August 4 – Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act 
  • Saturday, September 24 – National Public Lands Day 
  • Friday, November 11 – Veterans Day

“Whether on an entrance fee-free day or throughout the year, we encourage everyone to discover their national parks and the benefits that come from spending time outdoors,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a statement. “National parks are for everyone and we are committed to increasing access and providing opportunities for all to experience the sense of wonder, awe and refreshment that comes with a visit to these treasured landscapes and sites.”

While most people may think of national parks as being better suited to hikers, backpackers, campers, and other active adventurers, many parks have far more to offer. National parks protect historic sites, offer guided tours of massive caves for all ages, and usually have free family programs, lectures, and activities during the busy seasons. Some even have art classes and annual wildlife-watching events. You also don’t need to travel to a national park to take advantage of it, as all sites managed by the National Park System are free those days. You’ve got 423 to choose from, including national monuments, national historic sites, national recreation areas, and more.

Can’t make one of those five national park free entry days? No problem: you may be able to take advantage of one of these other free ways to enter a national park. Thanks to Every Kid Outdoors, fourth-graders and their families can get into hundreds of national parks for free for a year. Veterans and gold star families can always access America’s national parks for free, and seniors can get discounted annual national park passes. People with disabilities can receive annual national park passes for free, and volunteering at some park events, such as Yosemite Facelift (an annual effort to pick up trash around the park) will also get you a coupon for free entry into a federally managed site. 

You could also consider visiting a federally managed site that isn’t a national park as those tend to be cheaper. For instance, the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park is just $10 per person and Isle Royale National Park is only $7 per person. And some of the most beautiful parks in the country, like North Cascades National Park and Great Basin National Park, are free year-round.

With so many ways to enjoy the parks at free or reduced rates, 2022 seems like a fantastic year to get out there and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. 

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