First of all, if you DO happen to have a 4th grader — you can find out all you need to know about how to get your family into U.S. national parks for free through the Every Kid in a Park program. It’s pretty cool to set a goal to visit as many parks as you can during the 4th grade school year.
But that’s not the ONLY way to get into a national park for free.
FREE Entrance Fee to Your National Parks*
- Every Kid in a Park (4th graders and their families)
- Free Entrance Days 2017
- January – Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
- April – National Parks Week
- August – National Park Service Birthday
- September – National Public Lands Day
- November – Veteran’s Day
- Also check the Fees & Passes menu for individual National Parks — some, like Sequoia National Park, have their own fee-free days scheduled
- Visit a National Park that DOESN’T charge an entrance fee! There are over 400 parks in the system and only 117 actually charge a fee
- Free annual pass for active military
- Access Pass – free for those with a permanent disability
- At many parks, kids under 15 or even 16 are always admitted free
- There’s also a Volunteer Pass, but you must put in over 250 hours of service.
Fee-free days make parks accessible to more people. However, national parks are always economical, with entrance fees that range from $3 to $30.” – NPS.gov
Economical is the keyword here. Even when you do have to pay, the money you spend often directly benefits the park you are visiting! I almost wish NPS promoted a “Pay Your Parks What They’re Worth Day” where people could gain entrance with a donation in any amount that expressed how much value even one single visit adds to their life. Sigh.
Seems logical that sometimes you’d have to pay a small fee to get one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
I’ve witnessed many kids exclaim how “[INSERT PARK NAME] is better than [INSERT THEME PARK NAME]!” And I can guarantee a trip like this costs WAY less than the theme park. How can you put a price on that feeling?
$10 or Less Entrance Fee (Lifetime)
- $10 Senior Pass – lifetime pass for U.S. citizen or permanent residents over 62
$20-$30 Entrance Fees (Daily, but generally good for 7 days & for multiple adults)
- $30 is the most you’d pay for entrance and that’s to get into a park like Yosemite during the busy summer months. At Yosemite, it drops to $25 from November through March. The cool thing is that the $30 pays for your whole car of visitors (up to 15 passengers!) AND it’s good for 7 days.
$40-$50 Entrance Fees (Annual Passes for Individual Parks)
- Some parks offer Annual Passes limited ONLY to their park, like Muir Woods ($40) or Sequoia & Kings Canyon ($50). It’s a great option if you want to focus on a specific park or live nearby.
$80 America the Beautiful Annual Pass (Most Comprehensive Annual)
- An annual interagency pass that works at more than 2,000 recreation areas – read the FAQs for details
Just a note that there are sometimes costs that aren’t obvious to a visitor — even when a park doesn’t have an entrance fee. It might be free to enter, but you’ll have to make reservations and possibly pay a heftier fee to a concessionaire for the transportation to get there (examples include ferries to Alcatraz Island or taking a trip out to the Channel Islands).
Parks are SO economical to visit regardless of if it’s fee-free week or not. And there are less crowds when it’s not during a fee-free week!
Pledge to Visit a Park
For 2017, Northside is the main sponsor of Kids to Parks Day. They generously provided my family with 2 pairs of shoes to try. Of course, we took them straight to the park! The company’s mission is simple: “To design and build footwear that inspires families to get outdoors and have fun.” Sound familiar? I love that I could find a pair of sturdy hiking boots for my son at the same place where I can order sporty shoes that are super-functional, but still look good with a skirt on my daughter.
Please pledge to bring your kids to a park on #KidstoParksDay. We encourage you to visit www.kidstoparks.org and sign up so that your family can be counted in the national tally (it doesn’t have to be a National Park – and it doesn’t even have to be on the 20th).
You may win one of their cool prizes including a special camping package from The North Face (4 sleeping bags, tent, and duffel bag). They also have additional prizes from CamelBak (family hydration pack), Eastern National (Jr. Ranger package including an annual park pass), and National Geographic (kids park and nature books).
Plus, every person who signs up will receive a special promo code from Northside. Keep checking their events as we get closer to May 20th. They are adding new park events every week!
We support this cause and National Park Trust every year — and hope you pledge every year, too!
*The NPS.gov website tells you just about EVERYTHING you need to know about fees – so make sure you read the fine print on the official site, as well as checking the Fees & Passes page for each individual park you plan to visit. Please don’t rely on my information if you are planning a trip – just use it as a guide.
Disclosure: As stated above, my family received 2 complimentary pairs of Northside shoes to try in conjunction with our Kids to Parks Day post.