Great news! The US National Park Service has confirmed that once again, in 2023, there will be some days when entry to all US national parks is free! Since the 1st of the 5 days is today, let’s look at the details.
Many of the national parks in the US, like those in Canada, charge entrance fees. The fees help pay for rangers and experts to ensure the parks, and the animals and plant species that call them home, are safe, protected, and well looked after.
However, since the parks often include the most beautiful natural places in the country, getting to explore them can get expensive.
The good news is that for 5 days this year, entrance fees across all 63 major national parks and over 400 natural places of interest in the US will be waived.
Here are the dates you need to know and a few tips!
Free entrance into US national parks
The US National Park Service (NPS) offers these free entry days on certain American public holidays to allow people to celebrate and enjoy the best natural places in the US instead of being at work!
And the 1st free day is today! That’s right, January 16 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the park entrance is free.
It’s a bit last minute to enjoy it today, but you still have 4 more days throughout the year to enjoy free entrance into the US national parks. These are:
- Saturday, April 22: 1st day of National Park Week
- Friday, August 4: Great American Outdoors Day
- Saturday, September 23: National Public Lands Day
- Saturday, November 11: Veterans Day
There is a downside though: keep in mind that on free days, the parks tend to be more crowded too. So there’s a trade-off to save money, as there usually is for all things travel (download Flytrippers’ free ebook with 130+ tips to travel for less).
But it’s worth doing some research and using these days to explore the parks that have higher entrance fees, so you can maximize what you’re saving. Some of the parks are free all year round, so it’s a good idea to use the free entrance days on the 108 parks that have entrance fees.
While entrance to all parks is free today — and if you happen to be traveling in the US today — it’s a great day to focus on parks like Death Valley, Big Bend, and the Everglades, which are often too hot to visit in summer.
Tips to visit US national parks
You could start planning a trip around one of the dates —check out the post on the most visited national parks in the US for some inspiration.
To fly to national parks instead of driving, the amazing new offer on the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card gives you 11 short-distance one-way reward flights or 6 to the rest of the US (the American Express Aeroplan Card and American Express Cobalt Card give you almost just as much, with no minimum income requirement).
Join Flytrippers’ free webinar on the Aeroplan program to learn more.
Also, make sure you check out Flytrippers’ guide on how Canadians can travel to the US for their remaining pandemic rules.
Fees in US national parks
While you can expect free entry to the parks on the dates listed above, don’t be surprised if you have to pay for other activities. Camping, tours, boat hire, and other activities may still require a permit, license, or fee.
The fees are an important part of maintaining the parks, so the NPS still collects some fees on these days, partially to limit the number of people making use of the facilities and to ensure they can still afford to keep the parks in good condition.
However, the free days are designed to encourage more people to make use of the parks and to appreciate the natural beauty on offer. Since the initiative was introduced, the number of visitors to the national parks has been increasing.
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Planning on visiting the US this year? The US National Park Service has confirmed that, once again, it will offer 5 free entrance days when you can enter the parks and see some of the best natural spots in the country for free.
What would you like to know about US national parks? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Arches National Park (photo credit: Lauren Pandolfi)