Yosemite National Park (Photo/Damon Joyce NPS)

Free National Parks Day Celebrates Great American Outdoors Act, Public Lands

The federal government is celebrating the first anniversary of the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act by waiving entrance fees on Wednesday, August 4.

The fee-free day, dubbed the “Great American Outdoors Day,” was created last year when legislators approved a massive spending package to support public lands.

It applies to entrance fees to all public lands managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, including the 423 national park and monument sites. It also applies to national forests, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges.

Like the inaugural free day last year, other fees including overnight camping and group day-use fees will still be in effect.

Plan Your Free National Parks Day 

Zion National Park
Zion National Park (Photo/Mary Murphy)

For those who have had vacationing to national parks on the agenda over the past year, only to be squashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this free day is a great, summery opportunity to dip a toe back into some of the country’s most beautiful natural areas.

National parks have been open throughout the pandemic, but most have operated with substantial limitations. Many parks have also seen sharp increases in visitation that pressure the parks system and can make getting reservations or finding camping much harder for visitors.

The Department of the Interior says visitors should check individual park websites or download the NPS App to figure out what rules are in effect for each park. For public lands not managed by the National Park Service, visitors can find info at the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

August 4: Celebrating the Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act is a sweeping conservation bill that passed in 2020. It provides $1.9 billion each year for 5 years to fund maintenance to facilities and infrastructure within national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and American Indian schools, according to the National Parks Service.

It also pulls in about $900 million each year from offshore oil and natural gas production to foot the bill for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will help the government chip away at an estimated $22 billion in needed repairs.

In the next fiscal year, projects funded through the act are expected to provide 17,000 jobs and generate $1.8 billion in local communities. Not to mention, they will improve the outdoor spaces we all know and love.

“Through the Great American Outdoors Act, we are investing in the American people, and in the future of our public lands and sacred spaces,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I invite all Americans to experience the beauty and bounty of our nation’s public lands — not just on August 4 but every day of the year.”

Public Lands Legacy: Great American Outdoors Act Signed Into Law
Public Lands Legacy: Great American Outdoors Act Signed Into Law
President Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law that will put nearly $9.5 billion into outdoor recreation and public lands over the next 5 years. The Great American Outdoors Act also permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Read more…

Mark Wilson
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Mark Wilson is a freelance journalist for Lola Digital Media.

Mark has been writing about cycling, climbing, outdoor events and gear for more than a year. Before that, he spent more than a decade as a journalist at major daily newspapers in Texas covering crime, public safety and local government. Mark spent every free moment during that time carving up singletrack and gravel, or climbing with friends and family in Texas, Colorado and Mexico. Based in Texas, Mark is always looking for new trails, crags and gear to help navigate the outdoors. As a new dad, he is particularly interested in learning how to share his love of the outdoors with his son.