Experience The US National Parks For Free On These Days In 2023

In an effort to boost park visits, the National Park Service (NPS) is running a promotion this year that offers you the opportunity to visit all parks under its management for free on select days. In 2021, 297 million visitors traveled to the parks, about 25% more than in 2020. Although the figures have not matched pre-pandemic levels, visitation is similar to the years prior to the NPS' centenary in 2016, which saw nearly 331 visitors.

The government agency manages more than 400 parks, most of which are free to enter year-round. However, about 100 of them charge admission fees. "National parks are really amazing places and we want everyone to experience them," NPS director Charles "Chuck" Sams said. "The entrance fee-free days encourage people to discover the beauty, history and inspiration awaiting them in more than 400 national parks throughout the country." Note that only the admission fee is waived; other fees, such as those for the use of park amenities or tours, are not included in this promotion.

2023 free admission days

For five days this year, the NPS is offering free admission to all its parks. This includes perennial favorites, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Glacier National Parks, as well as historic sites, national monuments, reserves, recreation areas, and many more. Here's a list of all the participating parks, categorized by state, which are waiving their entrance fees on select dates this year. These parks normally charge from $5 to $35 per vehicle.

The first free day was on January 16, Martin Luther King Day. The four other days of the year when you can visit the national parks for free are April 22, the first day of National Park Week; August 4, the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act; September 23, which is National Public Lands Day; and Veterans Day on November 11. The free admission days fall on a weekend or a Monday or Friday, so it's the perfect excuse for a weekend trip or a short getaway.

Other ways to get discounted or free park entry in 2023

If you can't schedule a visit during this year's free admission days, there are other ways you can check out the NPS parks for free or at a discount. The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass grants unlimited access to all national parks and other federal recreation areas (there are more than 2,000!) for $80 per year. The pass covers entrance fees for you and passengers in your vehicle, or entry for you and three other adults ages 16 and older. If you're traveling with children ages 15 and below, they can enter the parks and federal recreation areas for free. The pass also waives day-use fees for standard amenities at lands managed by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

If you're 62 or older, you can buy an annual pass for $20 or a Lifetime Senior Pass for $80. In addition to free entrance, you may also receive a 50% discount on some amenities and services. A 4th grader or home-school equivalent can also take advantage of a whole school year plus summer (September to August) free entrance to US parks through the free 4th Grade Pass. Current members of the military and their dependents can get a free annual pass, while US military veterans and Gold Star Family members receive free lifetime passes. Those with permanent disabilities also get a free lifetime pass.