8 Ways to Save on National Park Fees

There are currently four hundred and eighteen national parks within the United States and while they are all naturally gorgeous, it costs money to keep them that way.  Those costs are always passed down to those who visit the parks and even though the national park admission fees are not that high, it does add up over time.  

If you have been planning on visiting any of the national parks this year especially the 15 best national parks in the USA, or will be in the future, you are going to want to know how you can save some cold hard cash every time you go through the entrance gates.  

8 Ways to Save on National Park Fees

1. Visit on a Free Admission Day

Every year, the national parks create a list of days when everyone can enter any of the parks for free.  This year, those dates included Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the first day of National Park Week, the National Park Services’ birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.  The days normally stay the same from year to year, but it is always best to check back for changes and to see if extra days are added.  

2. Visit a Park that Doesn’t Charge an Admission Fee

Only approximately half of the national parks charge an admission fee, so to save some money, you can always choose to visit one that will not cost you a dime. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Save on National Park Fees

So many people do this that it shouldn’t surprise you that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the park that is visited the most every year. They do not charge any national park fees there and those who visit take advantage of that every chance that they get!

3. Purchase an Annual Pass

If you have a goal of visiting every single national park, or a good number of them, in one year, then an annual pass is going to be key for saving on national park entry fees.  The annual pass costs eighty dollars and you can either purchase it at specific recreation sites or you can do it online if you do not mind paying the shipping fee.  

4. Purchase a Senior Pass

You can save even more if you are a senior citizen who is sixty-two years of age or older.  An annual pass for seniors is only twenty dollars, while a lifetime pass can be purchased for eighty dollars. 

Senior Pass - Save on National Park Fees
Credits: NPS.gov

The best part about a senior pass is that all grandkids, fifteen years of age and younger that enter the park with you are free!  

5. Volunteer with Specific Federal Agencies

One of the easiest ways to enter any national park without paying a dime is to volunteer with specific federal agencies.  Those agencies include the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  After completing two hundred and fifty volunteer hours, you will be given a free interagency pass to use until its expiration date. Yes, you will have earned this pass by working hard, but it is an excellent way to save on entrance fees to national parks. 

6. Find a Fourth Grader and Adopt Them!

Okay, so not everyone has a fourth grader readily available and it really isn’t recommended to just grab one!  However, if you do happen to have one in your household, you can get the Annual 4th Grade Pass.  This pass will get everyone in your family into all the national parks for that school year and the next summer. 

Kids at Park - Save on National Park Fees

It is easy to get this pass and all you need to do is go to the, Every Kid in a Park website, and follow the steps as they are listed.  Once you print out the voucher with the special code, you can take it to one of the national parks to get your free pass. The national park fees will then be waived for that entire year, every time you enter one of the parks.  

7. Check into the Military Pass

If you are in the military, or your spouse is active with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserve, or National Guard, you can qualify for the Annual Military Pass.  The military member will get into the national parks for free, as will their dependents and family members that are traveling in the same car.  

8. Look into an Access Pass

There are many people in this world who have permanent disabilities and the cost to enter national parks can be a hardship for them financially. 

Access Pass - Save on National Park Fees
Credits: NPS.gov

Thankfully, the national park services recognizes this and if you have a disability, you can apply for what is called an Access Pass. This is a lifetime pass that costs nothing and it will allow you to enter without paying the national parks admission fees.  

As you can see, there are so many different ways you can save on national park fees when you visit any of the national parks!  All you need to do is a little research before your trip, so you know exactly what you need prior to heading to any of the national parks.  If you really want to visit one of the free parks, there is a national park entrance fees list, so you know which parks to avoid during your next budget friendly vacation.  Otherwise, choose the national park that interests you the most and save as much as you can when you get there.  

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