Of the more than 400 national parks, monuments, historical sites, seashores, forests, and other areas managed by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), around a quarter charge entrance fees.
Those include some of the most popular and awe-inspiring spots in the system—Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Acadia, Zion, Rocky Mountain (pictured above), and about a hundred more across 36 states. Many of those parks normally charge as much as $35 per car.
Each year, however, the federal government selects a few days when entrance fees are waived and every single NPS site can be accessed for free.
The number of allotted fee-free days has varied in recent years, from a high of 16 during the NPS's 2016 centenary to a pitiful 4 in 2018.
The six free-entrance days scheduled for 2021:
• January 18 (Monday): Martin Luther King, Jr., Day
• April 17 (Saturday): the first day of National Park Week
• August 4 (Wednesday): the first anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act guaranteeing funding for conservation and upkeep of federal lands
• August 25 (Wednesday): the National Park Service's 105th birthday
• September 25 (Saturday): National Public Lands Day
• November 11 (Thursday): Veterans Day
Mark your calendars—and bear in mind that even on free-entrance days, you may still encounter fees after you get past the gates. Because private vendors are responsible for some charges, they still apply for camping, boat launches, transportation, parking, special tours, and other amenities and activities.
Outside of entrance fee-free days, those who plan to visit several national parks in 2021 should consider springing for an America the Beautiful annual pass, which gets you access to everything in the NPS system for the entire year for a one-time charge of $80.
There are also free or discounted passes available for seniors, current members of the military, people with disabilities, and the families of fourth graders.
To search for national parks by state and territory, visit NPS.gov/FindaPark.
And for help planning your trip, check out these Frommer's guides, available in print and e-book versions:
• Frommer's Yosemite & Neighboring Parks
• Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks
• Frommer’s EasyGuide to Moab, Arches & Canyonlands National Parks
• Frommer’s EasyGuide to Bryce Canyon National Park
• Frommer’s EasyGuide to the Grand Canyon & Northern Arizona