Where to Take Advantage of National Park Free Days

Save money by skipping entry fees on these incredible parks this year.

Avoid Canyonland National Park's $25 admission fee by visiting on an upcoming free day. 

Photo by: Joe Sills

Joe Sills

Avoid Canyonland National Park's $25 admission fee by visiting on an upcoming free day. 

By: Joe Sills
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This year, the National Park Service sliced its number of free admission days from 10 to just four. One of those days has already passed, but there are still three more days to get in free at national parks this year.

National Park free days return this month when the park service celebrates National Park Week on April 21. Last year, Americans got two full weekends of free parks to commemorate the event, but you can still catch festivities like free museum openings, night sky tours and junior ranger programs this year.

Free days return on Sept. 22 for National Public Lands Day, and Nov. 11 for Veteran’s Day. And with limited free time to explore this year, you’ll want to make the most of each one. Consider skipping the entrance fees at these great parks this year.

Utah’s Mighty Five

Photo by: Joe Sills

Joe Sills

Utah’s world-famous five-pack of national parks are some of the most visited in the nation for a reason. Of the 60 major national parks in America, these five offer some of the most dramatic landscapes on the continent, and quick access from Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Admission to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks will usually run thrill-seekers $30 per vehicle, while Grand Staircase Escalante, Arches, and Canyonlands (pictured) cost $25 each. Many of these parks are embroiled in a proposed increase to entry fees that could skyrocket those rates to $70 per vehicle, so get going while the getting’s good.

Pick your poison for a Utah day hike at Angel’s Landing, the Devil’s Garden, Druid Arch, the Navajo Loop Trail or Zebra Slot Canyon for a free day you won’t forget.

Mount Rainier National Park

Photo by: Joe Sills

Joe Sills

Less than two hours from Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park centers around the 14,410-foot volcano that looms over the city’s skyline. Rainier’s slopes harbor a smorgasbord of scenery, putting hikers, photographers and travelers up-close to waterfalls, glaciers and picturesque meadows.

Rainier is facing a rate increase from $25 to $70, but this year’s free days will allow you to hike on or in the shadows of Emmons Glacier, gawk at Comet Falls and watch the sunset over a volcanic remnant at Little Tahoma Peak.

Acadia National Park

Photo by: Shutterstock/Zack Frank

Shutterstock/Zack Frank

Arguably the most rugged national park on the east coast, Maine’s most-visited park lies less than five hours from Boston. Free days give northeastern travelers a chance to hike Cadillac Mountain, explore Sand Beach and gawk at the power of Thunder Hole, while leaving some change in their pocket for a post-hike brew at the Atlantic Brewing Company in Bar Harbor.

If you’ve only got one day in Acadia, try braving a death-defying view of the sea on the Precipice Trail, soaking in a boulder-strewn beach at Otter Cliff, and a bike, run or paddle at Eagle Lake.

Death Valley National Park

Photo by: Joe Sills

Joe Sills

Death Valley gives park visitors plenty of room to sprawl out less than two hours away from Las Vegas. The well-trodden path on Highway 190 through Furnace Creek will take drivers past the valley’s iconic salt flats and sand dunes—including the lowest point in the U.S., at Badwater Basin. This route is an extremely popular destination for tourists; however, with more than 5,200 square miles of park to explore, Death Valley is also the perfect park to get away from free day crowds.

The Panamint Mountains and Scotty’s Castle tend to escape the scrutiny of large crowds, but serve up breathtaking sights like the charcoal kilns and Ubehebe Crater. Remote campsites in these areas are typically open in warm months, keeping you far from the fray at Furnace Creek.

Free days in April and November keep visitors away from the valley’s most grueling summer months, and as a bonus, you’ll skip the entry fee of $25 if you visit at one of those times.

Badlands National Park

Photo by: Joe Sills

Joe Sills

True escapists should venture towards South Dakota’s Badlands National Park on free day. The remote, desert-like park is a road trip destination from midwestern cities like Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chicago. However, even in peak season, its crowds pale in comparison to those in Utah, Arizona and California.

Here, crowds are lean, while hiking, camping and wildlife viewing is exceptional. Wilderness hiking and backcountry camping are permitted in the Badlands. The park’s two designated campgrounds at Cedar Pass and Sage Creek are first-come, first-serve; but you just might find yourself camping near a heard of buffalo.

Regular entry to the Badlands is $20, but that’s slated to rise a bit to $25 in 2019.

Backpacking on a Budget?

These national parks are all $10 or less to enter.

Dry Tortugas National Park - Florida

Channel Islands National Park - California

Craters of the Moon National Park - Idaho

Capitol Reef National Park - Utah

Mammoth Cave National Park - Kentucky

Redwood National Park - California

Great Basin National Park - Nevada

North Cascades National Park - Washington

Pinnacles National Park - California

Cuyahoga National Park - Ohio

Katmai National Park - Alaska

50 States of National Parks

See All Photos

Little River Canyon National Preserve (Alabama)

Plan your trip to the Yellowhammer State. See the full list of Alabama national parks here.

Photo By: Jeff Schreier Photography

Denali National Park (Alaska)

Explore a world of wild beauty and pure adventure. See the full list of Alaska national parks here.

Photo By: National Park Service/Tim Rains

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Adventure awaits in The Grand Canyon State. See the full list of Arizona national parks here.

Photo By: Image Bank / Getty Images

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (Arkansas)

Historic battles, hot springs, the Ozarks and more! See the full list of Arkansas national parks here.

Photo By: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Redwood National and State Parks (California)

Iconic landscapes and unforgettable experiences. See the full list of California national parks here.

Photo By: Visit California/Carol Highsmith

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve (Colorado)

The Rocky Mountains and so much more. See the full list of Colorado national parks here.

Photo By: Alison Turner

Twin Brooks Park (Connecticut)

These New England landscapes tell a unique story. See the full list of Connecticut national parks here.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network (Delaware)

Discover the beauty of America’s first state. See the full list of Delaware national parks here.

Photo By: James River Association, flickr

Washington Monument (District of Columbia)

Plan your trip to the nation’s capital. See the full list of District of Columbia national parks here.

Photo By: Dennis Govoni / Getty Images

Dry Tortugas National Park (Florida)

Everglades, alligators and underwater adventures. See the full list of Florida national parks here.

Photo By: NPS photo

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Georgia)

Lush greenery, roaring rivers and plenty of peaches. See the full list of Georgia national parks here.

Photo By: Sebastien Windal / iStock

Kalaupapa National Historic Park (Hawaii)

Stunning landscapes abound on these mythic islands. See the full list of Hawaii national parks here.

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (Idaho)

Where friendly faces and rugged wilderness meet. See the full list of Idaho national parks here.

Photo By: Jarrod Clift

Lincoln Home National Historic Site (Illinois)

Plan your trip to the Land of Lincoln. See the full list of Illinois national parks here.

Photo By: Joe Scherschel

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Indiana)

Start your adventure in the Hoosier State. See the full list of Indiana national parks here.

Photo By: Christine Livingston / Indiana Dunes Tourism

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (Iowa)

A celebration of Midwestern history. See the full list of Iowa national parks here.

Fort Larned National Historic Site (Kansas)

Prairies, plains and trails await in the Midwest. See the full list of Kansas national parks here.

Photo By: Walter Bibikow

Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area (Kentucky)

Explore vast caves, mountain peaks and more. See the full list of Kentucky national parks here.

Photo By: Danita Delimont

Poverty Point National Monument (Louisiana)

Discover bayous and blues history down South. See the full list of Louisiana national parks here.

Photo By: zrfphoto

Acadia National Park (Maine)

Explore Northern coastlines, trails and mountains. See the full list of Maine national parks here.

Photo By: By Kim Carpenter (Near Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park 8911) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons>

Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine (Maryland)

Visit historic battlefields, monuments and parks. See the full list of Maryland national parks here.

Photo By: Buyenlarge

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (Massachusetts)

Explore peaceful beaches and historic sites. See the full list of Massachusetts national parks here.

Photo By: Kindra Clineff

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Michigan)

Visit magnificent rock formations and sandy shores. See the full list of Michigan national parks here.

Photo By: Stephen Saks

Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

Journey to fresh rivers, lakes and waterfalls. See the full list of Minnesota national parks here.

Photo By: StevenSchremp

Tupelo National Battlefield (Mississippi)

Scenic roads and sandy beaches await in Mississippi. See the full list of Mississippi national parks here.

Photo By: UniversalImagesGroup

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Missouri)

Explore wide open spaces and historic paths. See the full list of Missouri national parks here.

Photo By: Danita Delimont

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Montana)

Experience our adventure in Big Sky Country. See the full list of Montana national parks here.

Photo By: zrfphoto

Agate Fossil Beds (Nebraska)

See plains and trails pioneers traveled before you. See the full list of Nebraska national parks here.

Photo By: Posnov / Getty Images

Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

Rugged adventures await in the Great Basin Desert. See the full list of Nevada national parks here.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site (New Hampshire)

See beautiful foliage and trails in New England. See the full list of New Hampshire national parks here.

Gateway National Recreation Area (New Jersey)

Northern shores, immigration history and much more. See the full list of New Jersey national parks here.

Photo By: E+ / Getty Images

Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

See Southwestern deserts, canyons and petroglyphs. See the full list of New Mexico national parks here.

Governors Island National Monument (New York)

Majestic waterfalls, historic homes and much more. See the full list of New York national parks here.

Photo By: Thinkstock

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)

See mountaintops, scenic parkways and sandy shores. See the full list of North Carolina national parks here.

Photo By: Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (North Dakota)

Find adventure in vast, rugged landscapes. See the full list of North Dakota national parks here.

Photo By: Peter Baer, flickr

Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)

Find scenic trails, monuments and aviation history. See the full list of Ohio national parks here.

Photo By: zrfphoto

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site (Oklahoma)

Visit symbolic memorials, historic trails and more. See the full list of Oklahoma national parks here.

Photo By: Danita Delimont

Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

Breathtaking views of mountains, valleys and lakes. See the full list of Oregon national parks here.

Photo By: Moment Open / Getty Images

Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania)

Bucket list trips for the American history buff. See the full list of Pennsylvania national parks here.

Photo By: Ron Cogswell, flickr

Touro Synagogue National Historic Site (Rhode Island)

Where history and culture meet. See the full list of Rhode Island national parks here.

Photo By: Swampyank at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

Discover the tallest trees in the Southeast. See the full list of South Carolina national parks here.

Photo By: Eric Foltz / iStock

Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Discover Mount Rushmore, the Badlands and more. See the full list of South Dakota national parks here.

Photo By: Thinkstock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee)

A go-to destination for outdoor adventure. See the full list of Tennessee national parks here.

Photo By: WerksMedia

Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Adventure awaits in the Lone Star State. See the full list of Texas national parks here.

Photo By: Ian Shive / Aurora Photos

Arches National Park (Utah)

Discover "The Mighty 5" and so much more! See the full list of Utah national parks here.

Photo By: Whit Richardson / Aurora Photos

Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Historic Park (Vermont)

Appropriately dubbed the Green Mountain State. See the full list of Vermont national parks here.

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

The stunning backdrop to early American history. See the full list of Virginia national parks here.

Mount Ranier National Park (Washington)

Explore the nation’s Northwest corner. See the full list of Washington national parks here.

Photo By: Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Gauley River National Recreation Area (West Virginia)

Discover historic mountains, rivers and towns. See the full list of West Virginia national parks here.

Photo By: Trevor Clark / Aurora Photos

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

Enjoy this state’s ample water and rolling hills. See the full list of Wisconsin national parks here.

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)

The least populous state has room to roam. See the full list of Wyoming national parks here.

Photo By: iStockPhoto.com/dmathies

Editor's Note: On April 12, the White House decided to withdraw a proposal to raise the entry fees at 17 national parks to $70. Instead, rates will rise at all 117 National Park Service sites that already charge admission fees, but no more than $5 per site. This increase is expected to raise $60 million per year to help pay what the National Park Service says is a $11.6 billion backlog of repairs to facilities.

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