Early Check-In: Free National Parks Days

Celebrate Earth Day at America's National Parks


Marek Gahura

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

From April 21-29, 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.

National Park Week: April 21-29
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 the entire week. 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.

Get Outdoors Day: June 9
National Get Outdoors Day is a new annual event to encourage active time outdoors. Looking for adventure ideas to get you going? Survey the rock-ribbed wildness of Rocky Mountain National Park. Or check out Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was named the “most beautiful place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America.

National Park Service Founders Day: Aug. 25
America’s national parks have been called “the best idea America ever had.” Celebrate that achievement with Founders Day -- 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.

National Public Lands Day: Sept. 29
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. 10-12
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.

Many national park-related businesses and attractions offer special discounts and added value promotions on fee-free days. Stay up to date on discount offers with the National Parks Promotion Council.

And to get the most out of your national parks' experience, get a new iPhone/iPad app. 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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