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Make Plans: National Parks Are Free on September 26 | Frommer's Stacy Funderburke/ Shutterstock

Make Plans: National Parks Are Free on September 26

Each year, the U.S. national park system sprinkles a few days across the calendar during which the government collects no entrance fees.

The next date comes on September 26, 2020. That's a Saturday, which should increase the chances that people will be able to take advantage of the savings.

The bigger the park, the higher the entrance fee usually is. At Yosemite National Park, for example, it now costs $35 for the privilege of being able to enter for a week.

Even on Free Entrance Days you can't necessarily sail right in—this year, to preserve the potential for social distancing, some parks, including Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park, require visitors to make advance reservations. 

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So double-check your target park when making plans.

For September's free day, the National Park Service has posted a list of participating parks, and it's a healthy one; there are choices in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, putting several free national parks within a few hours' drive of nearly all Americans (Georgia's Cumberland Island National Seashore, pictured above, is on the list).

Keep in mind that only entrance fees are waived. You'll still have to pay any ancillary or activities fees, such as for parking, tours, camping, and other add-ons. Still, for the natural preserves in particular, the fee waiver is a great deal. 

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Americans used to get a lot more free days. In 2016, the Department of the Interior gave people 16 of them, enabling low-income citizens to access public lands around the calendar. That year featured a higher-than-usual number of free days to mark the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, but even in the following year, 10 free entrance days were scheduled. By 2018, the Trump administration had slashed the number to a measly 4. 

This year, there were 6 free days scheduled. After September 26, there's only one fee-free day left for the year. That'll be on Veterans Day, November 11. That's a Wednesday.

After that, the next free days will be scheduled for 2021—we hope. 

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