General Sherman, the largest tree on earth in Sequoia National Park in California. The otherworldly hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Utah. The wondrous, diverse landscape of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Sixty-foot faces carved into solid rock on Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota. These are just a few of the wonders that can be found in America’s 58 national parks.
On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service had a birthday. It turned 100 years old. In honor of that milestone, the entrance fee to all national parks will be waived for ten days in 2017.
These are the days you’ll be able to see these wonders without charge:
• January 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
• February 20 Presidents’ Day
• April 15-16 and 22-23 Weekends of National Park Week
• August 25 National Park Service birthday
• September 30 National Public Lands Day
• November 11-12 Veterans Day weekend
What’s Free and What’s Not
These free days include:
• Entrance fees
• Commercial tour fees
• Transportation entrance fees
They do not include:
• Boat launch fees
• Camping fees
• Third-party fees and special tours
Any fourth grade student can get a free annual pass to all national parks through the Every Kid in a Park program. Also, active military personnel and those with a permanent disability are entitled to a free annual pass.
In the national park system, 124 parks charge an entrance fee, and these fees range from $3-$30. In 2015, 307 million people visited America’s national parks. The most visited national park is Great Smoky Mountains National park in North Carolina and Tennessee. Second is the Grand Canyon.
If you want to continue your exploration of national parks, you can obtain an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass for $80. This annual pass allows unrestricted entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all 413 national parks.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in the press release, “National parks are known for their priceless beauty. On these ten 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.”
Whether visiting a park for the first time or returning to an old favorite, take advantage of these ten free days in 2017 to taste, in the words of environmentalist and historian Wallace Stegner, “the best idea we ever had,” America’s national parks.