Just in time for the cooler temperatures and beautiful colors of Autumn, most of the US National Parks are once again open for visitors. Choose your favorite parks and plan a visit when you can get free entrance to any of the US National Parks!
Be sure to check with the park that you are visiting to learn about visitor policies, COVID-19 procedures, and any other park news / updates. The parks are asking the public to partner with them to adopt social distancing practices when visiting parks. The NPS encourages visitors to follow CDC guidance to reduce the spread of disease and recreate responsibly.
Celebrate the coast to coast natural beauty of the USA with a trip to your favorite National Park on special dates when there is no entrance fee required!
** The next US National Parks Free Entrance Day is expected on January 18, 2021 **
There are currently 6 fee-free National Park days each year, plus certain groups of people qualify for a free annual pass! Learn more about these great opportunities to experience places like Georgia’s National parks or other internationally famous sites like the Everglades, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and many, many more!
Find a park near you / your vacation site with this National Park Service online tool.
US National Parks Free Entrance Days 2020
Enjoy the park(s) of your choice with no entrance fees on select dates!
NOTE that the list of free dates for 2021 have not yet been released, but the first 2 free dates have recently been to celebrate MLK Jr Day and the 1st Day of National Park Week. Details for free National Parks Entrance Dates in 2021 will be updated when they are available.
The Free Entrance Days in 2020 occurred on:
- Monday, January 20*: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Saturday, April 18: First day of National Park Week
- Wednesday, August 5: Celebrating the Great American Outdoors Act
- Tuesday, August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- Saturday, September 26*: National Public Lands Day
- Wednesday, November 11*: Veterans Day
Dates marked above with an asterisk (*) are days where all visitors also receive free entrance to US National Forest Sites!
Grab your backpack and action camera and choose a National Park for your next free visit!
Free US National Park Passes
In addition to the Free Entrance Days that are available to everyone without advance signup, there are also other ways to get free entrance into the US National Parks. Check out these programs to see if you qualify for a free pass!
Every Kid in a Park Program
Families with kids are invited to participate in the “Every Kid in a Park” program when they have a child in the 4th grade. Additionally, due to the pandemic shutdowns, 5th graders can also participate for the 2020-2021 school year. Learn more below
4th Graders – Free Pass Available Each School Year
All 4th graders are invited to get a free annual National Parks Pass from the “Every Kid in a Park” program!
With the Every Kid in a Park pass, fourth graders can bring family and friends on adventures free for a full year. Signup in August to take advantage of a full year of free admission to all of the National Parks (you can sign up any time of the year but the program only lasts through August)!
5th Graders – Free Pass for 2020-2021 School Year
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, access to parks was restricted for many 4th graders in 2020. To ensure that all kids get a chance to enjoy the parks, all 5th graders are eligible for a free annual parks pass for the 2020-2021 school year.
Download the 5th grade voucher for more information.
Gold Star Families and US Military Veterans
Beginning on Veterans Day 2020, Gold Star Families and Military Veterans are eligible for free access to National Parks, Department of the Interior agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Veterans may simply show valid identification to gain free access. Gold Star Families must download a Free Access Voucher and follow instructions to receive free access to these sites.
US Military Pass
Current U.S. military members (and their dependents) in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserve, and National Guard members are eligible for a free annual pass. Obtain this pass with valid ID at one of the federal recreation sites that issue free passes.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities are eligible for a free pass with documentation of permanent disability and residency or citizenship. Obtain the free access pass in person, online, or via mail (note that using online or mail requires a $10 processing fee).
Volunteers with at least 250 service hours (with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program) are eligible for a free 12-month Volunteer Pass. Visit Volunteer.gov or contact your local federal recreation site for more information about volunteer opportunities.
Discounted US National Park Passes
For those that do not qualify for the free pass programs above, discounted passes to National Parks are also available to senior citizens!
Discounted National Park passes are also available for seniors aged 62+. Applicant must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship. Seniors may choose either a discounted annual pass for $20 or discounted lifetime pass for $80.
These discounted annual parks passes are likely to pay for themselves after the very first park visit!
Find National Parks to Visit
Browse the list of National Parks in Georgia (including the multi-state Appalachian Trail), or learn more about all of the 417 park sites within the National Park Service.
I have traveled to all 50 states and have visited over 40 of our US National Parks — I can confirm that these national treasures contain some of the nation’s most beautiful places! I cannot recommend them enough.
My favorite parks include Hawai’i Volcanoes, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, New River Gorge, Badlands, and Zion. The parks that are still on my list of National Parks to visit include Joshua Tree, Saguaro, Crater Lake, and Sleeping Bear Dunes.
US National Parks Response to COVID-19
Check with individual parks before your visit to get the latest news on park-specific COVID modifications.
Modifications to park operations will be flexible, continually evaluated, and adjusted on a park-by-park basis with the support of NPS and Department of the Interior (DOI) leadership.
…some facilities and services may be limited. Before visiting, please check with individual parks regarding changes to park operations. If you choose to visit a national park, please ensure that you follow CDC and state and local guidelines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and practice Leave No Trace principles.
Updates about the National Park Services ongoing COVID-19 response are posted online at nps.gov/aboutus/news/public-health-update.
Tips for Enjoying US National Park Visits
Be sure to take provisions that are suitable for your National Park adventure which may include water, a backpack with snacks, compass and map, sunscreen, and a camera to record your memories! The correct gear will make all the difference in your enjoyment of your park visit(s). If you are staying within Georgia, you’ll have different needs from someone on a trip to a more extreme environment like Alaska or Hawaii.
Stay Hydrated and Nourished
Be sure to drink enough water and fluids and have some high-energy snacks throughout the day. These items should travel well at the park.
Choose Appropriate Footwear
Be sure to take appropriate footwear that has been previously worn / broken in.
Layer Your Clothing
Research the weather and the conditions of the park that you will be visiting. Dress in layers of comfortable, moisture-wicking or fast-dry clothing so that you can adjust to changing conditions throughout the day.
A little advance planning can help you be more comfortable as you explore the park. Take items like water shoes, extra dry socks, SPF lip balm, and hair ties in your pack to ensure the most comfort in the park.
Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert to changing conditions. Stay on the marked trails and be prepared for common surprises.
Keep basic first aid and emergency supply items on you in order to make sure you can best handle any emergency.
For more about great parks in the area, see the GaMountainsGuide.com post about national, state, and local parks in the Georgia mountains.
What are your favorite parks? Please share this post with others who would love to visit an amazing National Park for free!