National parks are a popular place to visit. The most recent statistics from the National Parks Service state that, in 2020, there were 62 national parks in the U.S. Out of the national parks, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is located partly in North Carolina and partly in Tennessee, had the most recreation visits in 2020 at 12.1 million. Next was Yellowstone National Park with 3.8 million visits, and Zion National Park in Utah came in third with 3.6 million visits.
If visiting a national park or two is on your to-do list this year, here are the dates you can get in free and also options for getting free or discounted entrance fees for the rest of the year.
In 2022, the National Parks Service is offering free entrance days to participating parks on the following five dates:
- Jan. 17: Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday
- April 16: First day of National Park Week
- Aug. 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- Sept.24: National Public Lands Day
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day
If you can’t make it to your favorite National Parks on any of the five free-admission days in 2022, here are some other ways you can save money on your admission.
America the Beautiful National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass
The America the Beautiful annual pass costs $80 and can be purchased online or at sites that sell them. The pass is good for 12 months and admits the pass owner and all passengers in the same vehicle at national parks that charge per-vehicle admission. At national parks that charge per-person admission, the pass will admit the owner of the pass plus three additional adults. Children under 16 are always admitted free. Considering that admission to national parks is $7-$20 per person or $20-$35 per vehicle, this pass could easily pay off — especially if you have more than one adult, including teens 16 and up, with you when you visit.
The Military Pass is also an annual pass and it’s free if you request it in person from a federal recreation site. If you order the pass online, a $10 fee will apply. The Military Pass is available to current members of the U.S. military, Reserve and National Guard Members, U.S. military veterans and Gold Star Family members. For national parks that charge per-vehicle admission, the pass is good for the pass owner and any additional adults in the vehicle. At sites that charge per-person fees, the pass is good for the pass owner, plus three additional adults.
4th Grade Pass
Fourth-grade students, including those who are homeschooled, and their families can gain free access to national parks, lands and waters from Sept. 1, 2021, through Aug. 31, 2022. You can print your pass here. The rules for admission with the pass are the same as the ones that apply to the Military Pass.
Other National Park Passes
Other passes to gain free or discounted admission include the Senior Pass, Access Pass for people with permanent disabilities and the Volunteer Pass for volunteers with 250 service hours for certain federal agencies. Learn about these passes here.
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