Free Entrance Days at US National Forests
Every year, the US Forest Service offers days when guests can enjoy the US Forest Service sites for free! The US National Forest Service waives recreation fees at most day-use sites on lands managed by the agency on these fee-free days.
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.
Participation by concession-operated sites may vary, so always check details in advance of your trip.
Free Entrance Days at US National Forests
Mark your calendar for these free 2023 dates and enjoy spending time in these beautiful natural settings both in the Georgia mountains and across the US.
Visit the US Forest Service online for more details about these free 2023 dates:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Monday, January 16, 2023
- President’s Day: Monday, February 20, 2023
- National Get Outdoors Day: Saturday, June 10, 2023
- Juneteenth: Monday, June 19, 2023
- National Public Lands Day: Saturday, September 23, 2023
- Veterans Day: Saturday, November 11, 2023
Other ways to get FREE forest entrance include:
- Volunteers with 20 hours of volunteer work may also earn a free National Forest Annual Pass
- All 4th graders are eligible for a free annual pass via Every Kid Outdoors program
- Free annual pass benefit runs for 4th grade school year (September 1st thru the following August 31st)
- Annual pass gets the 4th grader plus their siblings and parents into all parks for free for a year!
US National Forests in North Georgia Mountains
Browse the extensive list of all the beautiful US Forest Service sites nationwide, or browse the list of sites here in North Georgia in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests.
These are many unique experiences you can find in the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests — these include some well-developed / well-known facilities and other little-known jewels that are more tucked away.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests provide some of Georgia’s best outdoor recreation options and natural resources. These vast forests feature almost 867,000 acres stretched across 26 counties, with thousands of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, plus campgrounds, picnic areas, and more. Enjoy a visit for the natural scenery, long history, and unique culture.
Explore nationwide locations on the interactive map or enjoy visits to some of the great local favorites including:
Anna Ruby Falls
- Visit beautiful twin waterfalls — the tallest plunges more than 150 feet!
- Pet-friendly location with picnic area and public restrooms
- Located within Unicoi State Park, which normally has a usage fee, you may drive through without paying the fee for Unicoi if you plan to visit the falls only
- The falls close an hour early during the winter season (January and February)
- This Federal site honors the following passes:
- America the Beautiful National Park Passes
- Federal Recreation Land Passes
- Anna Ruby Annual Pass or the Friends & Family pass
- Phone: +1 (706) 878-1448
- Address: 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Rd, Helen, GA
- Stretching across 14 states, more than 76 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) are in Georgia
- Passes through five federally designated wilderness areas
- Georgia section includes the trailhead and offers views of diverse and stunning ecosystems as it winds north through the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area
- Take the 0.6-mile Summit Trail from the parking area to the top of Brasstown Bald
- Shuttle service is available Thursday – Sunday for $2 / person
- Enjoy 360-degree views from the top of the 4,784 feet Brasstown Bald (Georgia’s highest peak)
- Enjoy the view online with live webcam views from the South-facing webcam or North-facing webcam
- This Federal facility honors the following passes:
- America the Beautiful National Park Passes
- Federal Recreation Land Passes
- National Lands Pass
- Brasstown Bald Friends & Family pass (available at the general store)
- Note that
- Facilities/shuttles are closed for the season in Winter (opened April 1, 2021)
- The road to the top may be closed during poor weather conditions
- Some facilities and events are currently closed or canceled due to COVID-19
- Phone: +1 (706) 896-2556
- Address: 2941 Highway 180 Spur, Hiawassee, GA
- Website: fs.usda.gov/recarea/conf/recarea/?recid=10542
Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
- Enjoy a scenic drive on this scenic byway encircling headwaters of the Chattahoochee River and surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest
- Ideal for curvy mountain roads, colorful wildflowers, and spectacular fall colors
- Allow 3 hours to drive and explore this 40-mile loop and its vineyards, towns, and other local treasures
Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs (temporarily closed)
- Visit this ancient site where the Creek and Cherokee people carved their stories over 1,000 years ago into the boulders of Track Rock
- Over 100 carvings of a wide range of figures and one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeastern United States (the only site located on public land in Georgia)
- Site details including a map of boulder 4 and boulder 6
- Open year-round
- Free (no fee is required to visit)
- No drinking water or bathrooms are available
- Phone: +1 (706) 745-6928
- Address: Trackrock Gap Rd, Blairsville, GA
- Website: fs.usda.gov/recarea/conf/recarea/?recid=64871
In addition to getting in free at the US National Forests, there are also 5 days each year where you can get in free to the US National Parks too! With these unbeatable deals, it’s hard to resist a day exploring the natural beauty of the area!
Forest Service COVID-19 Policies
The Forest Service is taking the risks presented by COVID-19 seriously and is following USDA and CDC public health guidance as they continue to offer services to the public. Visitors to our National Forests and Grasslands are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
From the US Forest Service website:
In coordination with state and local health and safety guidelines, certain areas and facilities on National Forests are closed. Please check with your local forest for specific status updates. Recreation services at our facilities may be changed, suspended or offered through alternate approaches as we manage for the health and safety of our work force and the public. Agency direction tasks local managers to perform risk assessments of our facilities and limit congregations of people and person to person interactions. Our decisions will align with local city, county and state actions to provide for human health and safety (i.e. quarantine, curfew, and other social restrictions).
Tips for Enjoying the US National Forests
Be sure to be prepared when venturing into a National Forest with items like plenty of water and food, bug spray, sun protection, comfortable shoes and clothing, and working navigation tools. Follow ranger advice and online sources for local seasonal weather advisories.
Double Check for Seasonal Hours or Park Alerts
Some parks or roads may be closed during off-seasons or poor weather. Check the individual forest area website for current alerts, local conditions, and ongoing updates.
Share Your Plans with Someone
Be sure to let someone know of your travel plans including departure date, return date, and location of travel.
Don’t Rely on GPS or Data Coverage
GPS can be unreliable in some remote areas and cell phone coverage is unlikely to be strong when you are deep into the wilderness. Plan ahead by downloading maps in advance, or by taking waterproof printed maps along with a compass. Turn off your cell phone to save battery when you do not have cellular coverage.
Respect the Environment
A great rule of thumb for respecting National Forests is to “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Be sure to capture great photos with waterproof bags for your electronics, selfie sticks, drone camera shots, or a dedicated hands-free GoPro camera!
Follow Park Rules
Be sure to follow the rules of the forest and obtain permits for restricted activities like ginseng harvesting. Get familiar with local forest policies and enjoy personal rockhounding and panning for gold when you:
- are not in a designated Wilderness area
- are collecting for non-commercial purposes
- do not create significant ground disturbance
- are not using any mechanized equipment
Protect Your Valuables
Be aware of your surroundings and take steps to protect your valuables while enjoying the Georgia mountains.
Protect your valuables from the weather
Make arrangements in advance to ensure that you keep your essential items dry. Use Ziplocs or specially designed waterproof bags to secure your items from rain or boat splashes.
Protect your valuables from theft
Do not leave any valuable items in sight in a car that will be parked all day at a trailhead. Leave valuables at home or secure them out of sight in your car.
Dress for the Weather
Conditions in the Georgia mountains can vary from freezing cold Winter temperatures to blazing Summer heat waves. Be sure to plan for any extreme temperatures by dressing appropriately for the location and season. Dressing in layers can be helpful for days when the temperature varies a lot between daylight and night.
Carry Plenty of Water
Be sure that each person in your group carries plenty of water for their round-trip journey into the forest.
Be Aware of Threats and Wildlife
Be prepared for potential natural threats and any wildlife that you may encounter when in the forest. Depending on the time of year, you’ll want to be aware of any venomous snakes, bears, ticks, mosquitoes, or other dangerous critters that should be avoided. Wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid sun exposure and to deter bites from mosquitoes and ticks.
Enjoy your visits to the US National Forest sites across Georgia and the USA. See the GaMountainsGuide.com section for more information about national, state, and local parks in the Georgia mountains.
Thank you for the tour around the North Georgia Mountains! I was not able to get all the Cams ( I need to do the Abode Flash Player update ) Enjoyed Bryson City Cam. It’s been many years since I was there. I did about a 3 day excursion on the AT starting at springer mountain GA. Approach Trail.This post has brought back some good memories of the North Georgia Mountains. Do you know when the free days begin?
Hi Lonnie, Towards the top of the post, there is a list of the free entrance days for 2023. The first one is today in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day. If you aren’t able to take advantage of the free entrance today, then hopefully, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the future free entrance days!
I love nature and knowing that there is this possibility to visit these places freely, I think it will make me change some itinerary of some future trip or it will make me plan one on purpose! Wonderful opportunity and unknown to many. Thanks for talking about it, now I know it exists and I can plan for it in the future!
Hi Mila, The National Forests offer beautiful spaces to enjoy some of the best views in the country. The forests are definitely worth a trip – and it’s always nice to save some money on the free entrance days!
I enjoyed reading this article and website even though I don’t live anywhere near Georgia. It is an excellent service to provide people the resources for participating in one of their favorite past times. I like how thorough your writing and your topics are. The subjects seem to include everything one would want to know.
The area looks to be quite exciting and I would gather that a lot of people enjoy it. Your inclusion of places to eat, drink, explore, and places to stay overnight is all valuable. Your passion comes through in your writing.
Plus, even though I don’t live near Georgia, this article is relevant for all forests in the USA (even the ones near me)! Thanks so much!!
Hi Erlene, You are most welcome!
Reading your article and seeing the pictures of these beautiful forests, really make me want to live in America. Coming from a small country like the Netherlands, we cannot experience any long trails let alone the vastness of the wilderness. I once experienced it a bit going halfway up Mount Rainier in Washington State, albeit in a car(lol).
The beauty of the scenery in the USA is overwhelming and I will put venturing out there on my bucket list. Thanks for your article.
Hi Jerry, The national forests are definitely one of our national treasures here in the USA. The epic trails like the Appalachian Trail are known worldwide!
Thank you for this interesting and informative article about free days in US National Forests. I was especially interested in the segment about the Appalachian Trail and discovering that 76 miles of it were in Georgia. I had read the book “A Walk In the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I think I will add a trip to the Appalachian Mountains to my “bucket list”. It seems really beautiful.
Hi Jenni, I also enjoyed that book and learning more about the journeys of Appalachian Trail hikers through the stories it told. I hope you’re able to make it here to check it out in person soon!
Heloo there, I really want to say a big thanks to you for sharing this insightful and informative piece on the topic titled, free entrance days at us national forest sites.. I basically stumbled on this site which I must say I am really finding it interesting. It’s filled with so much useful and valuable content, it’s rather very informative. I am definitely going to visit some other times.
Thanks Oscar! I hope you are able to enjoy one of the beautiful forests on “Fee Free Day” tomorrow and you are welcome to visit this website anytime!! 😉
This is a great post, I really like they way everything was spell out. You have given us the best days and months to visit GA Mountain Forest for tour and get free entrance, another important thing that I appreciate is the Tips you have shared; comfortables shoes, food, water,sun protection and many more. Thanks for this information.
Hi Eunice, the Georgia mountains have four very distinct seasons so you will find the experience to be quite different at each time of year. Some people prefer one season over the others, but there is lots to see no matter when you decide to go! Enjoy your trip!
Thank you for the information about the free entrance days at the US National forest. This is a nice reminder in planning my family holidays in November, as we will like to benefit from this opportunity. Thank you for the useful hints to guide us for an enjoyable exploration. I will keep them handy.
November is a beautiful time of year at the forests in the North Georgia mountains, as the fall colors usually peak during the early to mid-part of the month!
Interesting my friend. I did not know that there are free entrance days at US national forests sites five times a year so I am pretty excited even as I take advantage of one of these days to go explore the forests sites. You for sure have provided the best tips and advice with which I can enjoy and have the best experience at the US National Forests. Water is one important thing I can’t do without an hour apart so it is good advice to go with water and follow the rules there.
Hi Tush, It’s so very important to have enough water for each person when venturing out into the forests. For longer hikes I like to carry water in a backpack style container, and for shorter trips I can usually just carry a large refillable water bottle.
Thanks for providing so much information on the National Forests. This information is helpful for planning the day. The in depth maps help us to see exactly where things are located and which areas are open . The Covid Information is extremely helpful to keep everyone updated. It’s great to get the most useful information in one place like this on one site.
Hi Tammy, You are most welcome for the information regarding the free entrance days at these national treasures. I hope you find a great place to enjoy the day!
Wow! I didn’t know that there were free days for visits to the national forests! That’s freaking awesome. It’s too soon for me to be able to plan the next one, President’s Day, as it is only 3 days away, but possibly later in the year, I am going to consider it. If I can get a friend to accompany me. Thanks again for the information! I’ll have to keep this in mind going forward. Not all activities have to be expensive!
I hope you are able to plan a visit on one of the future free days!
Wow. Alyce. I’m not an American but I’m completely shocked that you guys have to pay fees to access the forest!
You see, I come from a majority black country of which the tropic of Cancer runs through (the Bahamas). And as you can imagine, its hot 95% of the year (although right now its around 60 degrees and that’s pretty freaking cold for us). So the idea of being outside in the heat is not a pleasant idea and our natural preservation places are practically BEGGING people to enjoy the forest and national parks (we don’t have many forests on the island, and when we do, noone really cares kml)
So to say that you have to pay fees to get into a forest is wild to me but i love that there are days that you all can access the forest for free.
Is the fee applicable only to a few areas in the US?
Hi Tyranique, thanks for sharing. I have visited the Bahamas in February and it was definitely hot and humid outside!
Unfortunately, most visitors do have to pay to enter most of the US National Forests and US National Parks. While some of the fees are reasonable, other entrance / parking fees can be a lot for a family. The Free Entrance Days are a nice opportunity for people to get into the parks that may otherwise be too pricey for them to visit.
Hi, Does the five days start from November 11 or November 11 is the only day remaining in this year 2019? My friend and her family is looking out for this days but somehow because of her job and all she has going with her it has not been possible. Although it is a few days away, maybe she can make some plans for it this time. I will have to call her up and inform her. Please are there good spots one can camp?
Thank you so much for this information. Would really appreciate your feedback.
Hi, each free day promotions only lasts for one day. The last one single free day for 2019 is on November 11th. I hope this gives you enough opportunity to plan a free visit to a US National Forest.
I found your article on the National Forest System Free Days in GA interesting and informative. It stimulated me to look at National Forest areas in California. I found one just 90 miles away with camping, trails and classes. I have not yet been able to find out about free days, but I am excited about the idea of a national forest area right here. I also enjoy some of the other articles you have publish with information offered about Georgia. Thank you!
It’s wonderful to hear that this information has helped you learn more about the Georgia mountains and find some offers that you can take advantage of that are closer to home!!
Cool there is one day left in 2019, Veterans day. My father is a veteran of the US Navy. Would you happen to know if it’s legal to recreationally pan for gold on one of these free entrance days at a US National forest? I’m thinking about doing something like panning, thought it might be fun as we haven’t done that in years. Thanks for any information you can provide me, appreciate it.
You should be able to use small recreational equipment to pan for gold, but be sure to ask the local park rangers for full details.
Wow, this Isa very good offer and I didn’t even think that it is very good that you can share this post on how one can easily get into the forest sites for free. From the list that you have shared here, I see that I can easily go there in the next ten days all for free on the veterans day. Oak very happy that you did this post. Thank you very much.
It’s definitely a nice time to visit when you are able to get in for free. Remember that these free days happen each year, but since the dates may change each year, be sure to double check the website for the most current information on free entrance days at the US National Forests!