Early Check-In: Free National Parks Days

More than 100 of America’s best national parks offer free entrance days. Mark your calendars for some of nature-loving fun -- free of charge.

By: Lisa Singh

What better place to celebrate Earth Day (April 22) than at one of America’s national parks? And what better time to visit than National Park Week?

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park

At the end of 2014's Oscar-nominated movie Boyhood, famously shot over 12 years, the boy of the title, now a young man is seen hiking a canyon at Big Bend. The Texas national park also represents in Paris, Texas and No Country for Old Men.

Photo by: iStockPhoto.com/David Hughes

iStockPhoto.com/David Hughes

On the weekends bookmarking National Park week, all 397 national parks are offering free admission. That's not the only time you can enjoy free admission, either. More than 100 of America’s best national parks offer free entrance days at other key times of the year. So tuck away your wallet, get out your hiking boots and mark your calendars for some nature-loving fun -- free of charge.

Celebrate national parks’ wide open spaces and natural beauty. That’s the idea behind National Park Week, a proclamation signed by President Obama. Free admission is yours for two weekends in April. Revel in grand scenes and natural wonders at such sites as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Historical Park -- all among America's best World Heritage Sites.

National Park Service Birthday: Aug. 25-28

America’s national parks have been called “the best idea America ever had.” Celebrate that achievement on August 25th, the Parks' birthday -- it marks the day in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, which created the National Park Service. Check your local national park website; many have special events throughout the day. Among them, North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore is celebrating with a ranger-led beach walk along Bodie Island-Coquina Beach.

Interested in enjoying the outdoors and conserving them, too? Since 1994, this annual event has brought together volunteers to preserve and protect public lands. If you’re looking to volunteer as you enjoy America’s natural wonders, check out National Public Lands Day to find a national park site.

Veterans Day Weekend: Nov. 11-12

National Park Service parks and sites don’t lack for military history. Tour the grounds of Antietam National Battlefield, Appomattox Court House where General Lee surrendered, and Petersburg National Battlefield Park for a dose of Civil War trivia.

Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend

The civil rights leader changed history. So it’s fitting that many national parks, often home to historic sites, honor Martin Luther King Jr. with free admission over MLK weekend. Outdoor and history lovers alike will find plenty of options, including the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument -- just a few sites with free admission that weekend.

More National Parks Info

The National Park Service lists more than 100 national parks to choose from.

If you’re an avid camper or hiker, consider buying an annual pass.

And to get the most out of your parks experience, download the Passport to Your National Parks app from Eastern National. This essential tool links all 397 national park websites, and lets you keep track of the parks you’ve visited by adding photos and descriptions of your trip.

So whether it's Earth Day or any other major day, you're on your way to chronicling outdoor adventures and breathtaking vistas. And all of it for free.

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