hiking in Zion
Photo credit: Dudarev Mikhail

Free National Park Days Set for 2021: Mark Your Calendar

The Trump Administration announced fee-free days for the national parks this month. Best of all, there’s one more free day next year!

National parks offer places of restoration, reflection, and recreation. From hiking to fishing to climbing peaks in Denali, there’s always something to get after in these sacred places. And with more than 400 locations nationwide, the NPS likely has a spot near you.

The good news is that only 108 of those parks have entrance fees, and if you’re looking to skirt them, these are the days you can. Plus, the total free days at national parks are up from 5 in 2020 to 6 in 2021 — thanks to the new Great American Outdoors Day national park holiday.

Fee-Free National Park Days in 2021

  • Monday, January 18 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Saturday, April 17 — First Day of National Park Week
  • Wednesday, August 4 — One-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • Wednesday, August 25 — National Park Service Birthday
  • Saturday, September 25 — National Public Lands Day
  • Thursday, November 11 — Veterans Day

Great American Outdoors Day

yosemite national park
Photo credit: Andrew Opila

Legislators added Great American Outdoors Day to the NPS calendar to commemorate the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan-supported bill that adds funding and resources to tackle the maintenance backlog of the NPS, as well as fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Fee-free days have wavered in number over the past few years as a direct reflection of the massive maintenance backlog and budget shortfalls within the National Parks System. From 2017 to 2018, 12 free days were cut, from 16 to 4.

As funding from the GAOA begins to arm the NPS with more resources, these days could continue to rise.

Fifth-Graders, Veterans, and Gold Star Families Receive Free Access

Since 2015, the Every Kid Outdoors program has granted every fourth grader in the United States a free National Parks Pass for their family. And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fifth-graders in 2021 can once again capitalize on the opportunity.

Active-duty military and their families have also received free access to national parks. But, earlier this year, Secretary Bernhardt signed orders granting veterans and Gold Star Families free lifelong access to national parks as well.

Senior citizens (62 years and older) receive a discount on the annual pass as well, which can be purchased for $20 each year. Or they’re given the option to pay $80 for a lifelong pass.

Nicole Qualtieri
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Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. When she's not writing or editing, she's likely hunting, fishing, or on the back of her little brown horse with a border collie named Butch Cassidy on heel in the mountains. Find her on Instagram at @nkqualtieri.

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