National Parks to Offer 6 Days of Free Admission in 2021

Woman hiking in Zion National Park
Photo by EB Adventure Photography / Shutterstock.com

A new year soon will dawn, and an old tradition — fee-free days at America’s national parks — will continue.

Each year, the National Park Service waives entrance fees on special days.

In 2021, those days will be:

  • Monday, Jan. 18 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Saturday, April 17 — The first day of National Park Week
  • Wednesday, Aug. 4 — One-year anniversary of the enactment of the federal Great American Outdoors Act
  • Wednesday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service birthday
  • Saturday, Sept. 25 — National Public Lands Day
  • Thursday, Nov. 11 — Veterans Day

The National Park Service comprises more than 400 places. They include national parks as well as other types of sites — national monuments, battlefields and seashores, for example. To find the park nearest to you, visit the Park Service’s “Find a Park” page.

Most of the 400-plus sites do not charge entrance fees at any time. Around 100 that do charge admission waive the cost — which can range from $5 to $35 — on entrance fee-free days.

Other types of fees, such as those for camping or special tours, still apply on free-entrance days.

Other ways to see national parks for free or cheap

There are many other ways to save money at national parks, regardless of when you decide to visit them.

For example, an annual pass that provides unlimited entrance to all 2,000-plus federal recreation areas, including national parks, is $80.

Admission to all parks will also continue to be free for children ages 15 and younger, as well as holders of the following types of passes:

  • Senior Pass — which costs $80 for the lifetime version and $20 for the annual version
  • Military Pass — a free pass for current U.S. military members and their dependents
  • Access Pass — a free pass for U.S. citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities
  • Volunteer Pass — a free pass for volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program
  • Annual 4th Grade Pass — a free pass for fourth-graders with a valid Every Kid Outdoors paper pass (which has been extended to fifth-graders for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year)

Additionally, under the Military Veterans and Gold Star Family Free Access Program created in October 2020, U.S. military members and Gold Star Families now enjoy free entrance to some 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks.

For the purposes of this program, Gold Star Families are defined as “next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a ‘qualifying situation,’ such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.”

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