If you’ve been on social media this week, you may have noticed that it’s #NationalParksWeek. In addition to celebrating “America’s Best Idea,” it also means another weekend of free admission to your national parks (and other public lands).
If you’ve missed out so far in 2017, don’t despair, there are still several more free entrance days on the calendar.
- April 22-23 – the second “half” of National Parks Week
- August 25 – Anniversary of the National Park System
- September 30 – National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12 – Veteran’s Day weekend
Free admission is actually the norm
Most National Parks and Public Lands have no entrance fee. For instance, of the 417 units of the National Parks System, only 117 charge an admission fee—and most of those are the big Western wilderness parks or monuments. Relatively few recreation sites and national monuments managed by the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service charge admission fees, though that trend is growing in “enhanced recreation areas.”
Keep in mind, though, that the “fee-free days” only covers entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. You’ll still be paying for any fees related to reservations, camping, tours, concession, and any fees collected by third parties (unless stated otherwise).
Other free passes you should know about
- Fourth-graders are eligible for a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program
- Active duty military (and their dependents) are eligible for the free Interagency Military Pass annual pass
- Citizens with a permanent disability are eligible for the lifetime Golden Access Pass
- Citizens aged 62 or over are eligible for a
$10 Golden Eagle Pass (until Aug 27, 2017)$20 annual Senior Pass, or a $80 lifetime Senior Pass.
The annual pass for the rest of us
For everyone else, there’s the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but it will still get you into more than 2000 federal recreation sites and parks for free.
Specifically, it covers entrance fees (for up to four adults) at national parks and national wildlife refuges, plus “standard amenity fees” at national forests and grasslands, as well as lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corps of Engineers. Children age 15 or under are admitted free. At sites that charge per vehicle, it covers the driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle.
The cost is $80, which is still an amazing deal given the fabulous natural and cultural resources you’ll be able to experience in our national parks and public lands.