Get Outta Town: 2017 Free Entry Days at US National Parks

Perfect for a budget-minded trip

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
••• Allison Achauer/Getty Images

Looking for a memorable and affordable escape with kids? Plan a visit to a national park on a day or weekend when entry is free. 

Our national parks are a treasure trove of wish-list destinations. Each property run by the National Park System—including 60 national parks and more than 300 historic sites, monuments, recreational areas, and seashores—offers a unique mix of wildlife, scenery, and insight into our nation’s history and culture.

Whether you visit Pinnacles National Park (our newest) or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (our most popular) or a combination of Utah's Mighty 5, kids ages 5 to 12 can participate in free Junior Ranger programs. Typically these programs consist of completing an activity book while exploring the park through self-guided hikes, scavenger hunts, or other activities. A junior ranger that completes the program will receive a certificate or badge; occasionally a ranger will also perform a short "swearing in" ceremony.

Every year, the National Park Service designates a handful of days when free admission is offered to visitors. Here are the days when entry to national parks is free in 2017:

Free Entrance Days at National Parks in 2017

Over 400 properties operated by the National Park Service will offer free admission on:

  • January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 20: Presidents Day
  • April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Before You Go
Before visiting a national park, kids can also go online to explore the National Park Service's Web Rangers website. Kids will find dozens of activities and quizzes about wildlife and national parks and can play for points.

Also, the NPS offers a collection of video-based Electronic Field Trips that provide kids with an in-depth look at issues that pertain to national parks.

Nearly every park offers free ranger-led hikes, workshops, excursions and other learning opportunities, so be sure to do pre-trip research on the National Park Service website to find out what is available.

Free Entry All Year Long
Do you have a fourth grader? If so, your whole family can have free access to US national parks all year long, thanks to the Every Kid in a Park initiative started by President Obama. The goal is to provide an opportunity for kids and families across the country to experience their public lands and waters in person. Fourth grade students can sign up online to receive a voucher that provides entry to national parks for the student and a carload of passengers for a whole year.

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