You Can Visit All 423 National Parks for Free on These Days in 2023
Mark your calendar for these entrance fee-free dates at any park you choose.
With an uptick in travel following a near-standstill during the pandemic's peak, we're revisiting plans to experience the amazing natural resources within the nation's borders. America's 423 national parks are one of the best examples of these treasures, each with unique offerings ranging from wildlife to sandy beaches to historic sites. And on select dates in 2023, National Park Service (NPS) locations that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone. Keep reading for the full list of dates and some other ways you can explore the great outdoors at no cost.
These are the 2023 fee-free entry days.
The year's first fee-free day was on January 16, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If you missed it, there are four more dates throughout the rest of the year:
- April 22: First day of National Park Week
- August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- September 23: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans' Day
Note that the entrance fee waiver on fee-free days won't cover amenity or user fees for activities like camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.
These U.S. parks are always free to visit.
If the fee-free days don't align with your schedule, fear not; many national parks are free all the time. These include the NPS' newest addition, New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia, Nevada's Great Basin National Park, popular for its spectacular caves and stunning ecological diversity, and one of the park system's most-visited destinations, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
You can search any national park on the NPS website and click through to see its fee structure.
Fourth-grade children can always visit parks for free.
A government program called Every Kid Outdoors gives all fourth graders and their families (all kids under 16 and up to three adults) free entrance to national parks. Fourth graders need to fill out a diary of the things they'd like to do during their park visits and print out a pass to present at park entrances.
The program was started in 2015 under the Obama administration when it was called the "'Every Kid in a Park initiative." As for why it's fourth graders, a White House official told ABC News at the time that "many states focus on state history during the 4th grade, which aligns well with what NPS and other land managers have to offer." The name of the program was changed in 2019 and authorized for another seven years from that time.
Military members and veterans also get in free.
Current and former military members can also visit NPS sites for free. The Military Annual Pass is available for current U.S. military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force, as well as Reserve and National Guard members. The Military Lifetime Pass is available for Gold Star families and U.S. military veterans.
Seniors get a big discount and a lifetime pass.
Bring the grandparents along, too. Seniors (62 and over) qualify for a lifetime National Parks Senior Pass. In addition to granting seniors free access, the pass will cover up to three additional people in a vehicle for a one-time fee of $80. And at some parks, it will provide a 50 percent discount on certain amenity fees, such as camping, swimming, and boat launch. Seniors can also get an annual access pass for $20.
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Or, this $80 annual pass gets you unlimited access.
For $80, the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass gives you unlimited access to over 2,000 federal recreation areas. This includes all national parks that charge an entrance fee, along with lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The pass covers the pass-holder and all vehicle occupants at sites that charge per vehicle or up to three additional adults (16 and over) at sites that charge per person. Kids 15 or under are admitted free with a pass-holder.