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 in promotions (like these free days) by concession-operated sites may vary, so always check details in advance of your trip.
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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 Georgia and across the USA!
Visit the US Forest Service online for more details about these free 2023 dates when recreation fees are waived at most day-use sites:
- 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 the 4th grade school year (September 1st thru the following August 31st)
- The annual pass gets the 4th grader plus their siblings and parents into all parks for free for a year!
US National Forest Sites in North Georgia
There 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:
Visit beautiful twin waterfalls at Anna Ruby Falls near Helen, GA. The local favorite is within Unicoi State Park and features a waterfall that plunges over 150 feet! This pet-friendly location has a picnic area and public restrooms.
Note that the site may have different hours during winter (January and February).
- Phone: +1 (706) 878-1448
- Address: 3455 Anna Ruby Falls Rd, Helen, GA
- TripAdvisor: Anna Ruby Falls is rated 5.0 with 2,850+ reviews
- Ranked #1 for Things to Do in Helen
The southern terminus of the world-famous Appalachian Trail is located in North Georgia! The 75+ miles of the AT passing through Georgia are protected by a one-mile boundary secured by a unique agreement between the US Forest Service and the National Park Service.
Whether you aspire to hike the entire ~2,200 miles, or simply choose to enjoy section hikes through North Georgia, this is a wonderful way to experience the natural beauty of the forests! Click to learn more about the current status of the trail:
- US Forest Service – Appalachian Trail in Georgia
- Georgia Appalachian Trail Club
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Visit Georgia’s highest peak and take in 360-degree panoramic views from 4,784′ elevation at the top of Brasstown Bald! Picnic tables provide scenic spaces to relax while enjoying the views. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash (no dogs are permitted in the Visitor Center).
Note that facilities and shuttles may close for the winter season and open around the beginning of April. The road to the top may close during poor weather conditions.
- Phone: +1 (706) 896-2556
- Address: 2941 Highway 180 Spur, Hiawassee, GA
- TripAdvisor: Brasstown Bald Mountain is rated 4.5 with 1,125+ reviews
Visit scenic Helton Creek Falls all year round – accessible with only a 0.2-mile hike! No fees to visit.
- Phone: +1 (706) 745-6928 (Blue Ridge Ranger District)
- Address: GA
- Website: US Forest Service – Helton Creek Falls
- TripAdvisor: Helton Creek Falls is rated 4.5 with 325+ reviews
Enjoy a scenic drive on this National Scenic Byway that is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest and encircles the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River! Expect your ears to pop as they adjust to the changing elevation among the curvy mountain roads and stunning views that change with each season!
Take your time to explore the scenic points of interest along this 40-mile loop that features close to 40 switchbacks!!
- Website: US Forest Service – Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway
- TripAdvisor: Russell-Brasstown National Scenic Byway is rated 4.0 with 15+ reviews
Track Rock Gap Petroglyphs (temporarily closed)
Visit this ancient site where the Creek and Cherokee people carved their stories into the boulders of Track Rock. View 100+ carvings of at one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeastern United States (the only site located on public land in Georgia). Learn more online and view site details including a map of Boulder 4 and Boulder 6.
- Phone: +1 (706) 745-6928
- Address: Trackrock Gap Rd, Blairsville, GA
- Website: US Forest Service – Track Rock Gap Petroglyph Site
All of the above sites are part of the US National Forest system, but some sites have select operations run by outside companies. Please confirm participation in the annual Free Entrance Day events before making a special trip!
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.
- Check for area alerts – many roads and parks are closed during off-seasons or poor weather, so check with the official forest website for current alerts, local conditions, and ongoing updates
- Share your plans – be sure to let someone know about your travel plans including departure date, travel destination(s), and expected return date
- Don’t expect cell service – GPS can be unreliable in remote areas, and cell phone coverage is unlikely to be strong when you are deep in the wilderness – download maps in advance, or take waterproof printed maps along with a compass
- Know the site rules – follow the rules and obtain necessary licenses and permits for restricted activities like fishing and ginseng harvesting
Head out with the right gear to ensure the best time in nature. Be aware of your surroundings at all times!
- Protect valuables from weather – arrange in advance a way to keep essential items dry with Ziplocs or specially designed waterproof bags
- Dress for the weather – monitor weather conditions frequently and consider dressing in layers to make quick adjustments on days when the temperature swings rapidly
- Stay hydrated – be sure that each person in your group carries plenty of water for their round-trip journey
- Stay alert – be ready for any wildlife encounters and follow recommended precautions to keep safe
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In addition to getting in free at the US National Forests, there are also five days each year where you can get in free at the US National Parks too! With these unbeatable deals, it’s hard to resist a day exploring the natural beauty of the area!
Enjoy your visits to the US National Forest sites across Georgia and the USA.