Entrance Fee-Free Days at the National Parks

Whether you’ve already got a national parks passport chock full of stickers and stamps or you’re just getting ready to take your first Grand Circle tour, the national parks are some of the most popular destination for RVers and campers of all stripes — and for good reason. These landscapes are so undeniably moving that we as people have made a dedicated effort to set them aside, to consecrate and preserve them for future generations. As someone who’s visited about a dozen, I think it’s safe to say you want to see as many of them as you possibly can.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the limited number of fee-free days the National Park Service offers each year to encourage people to get outdoors and spend time with their friends and family.

 Here’s what you need to know about the fee-free days at the National Parks in 2019, as well as some more general tips and guidelines to help you make the most of your national park RV camping adventure.

National Park Fees

First things first: what are the national park fees in the first place, and which parks assess them? How much might you expect to pay at the entryway to, say, Arches National Park or Yellowstone National Park?

Well, each park’s entry fee varies, ranging from absolutely nothing, as at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, all the way up to $35 per vehicle or more in places like Glacier National Park. What’s more, the exact cost to you will depend on what sort of vehicle you’re bringing into the park as well as how long you wish to visit; you might be charged a lower fee if you arrive by motorcycle, or pay more for a pass that’s good for three or seven days.

Because there’s so much variability when it comes to specific national park entry fees, the best way to figure out how much your target park costs to enter is to check out this comprehensive and up-to-date list, managed by the National Park Service itself. Keep in mind that these fees might not cover additional services or activities, like cave tours or camping costs.

How to Get Free Entry to the National Parks

Now that you know what you’ll pay to get in on most days of the year, let’s talk about those special ones where you don’t have to pay anything. Each year, the National Park Service hosts a few specific days where entry fees are waived to encourage more people to get outside and explore these unique landscapes. These change on an annual basis, but here are the official national park fee-free days in 2019, per the National Park Service.

  • Monday, January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Saturday, April 20 – Start of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
  • Sunday, August 25 – National Park Service Anniversary
  • Saturday, September 28 – National Public Lands Day
  • Monday, November 11 – Veterans Day

As you can see, while one of these dates has already passed (and one is soon approaching), you still have ample opportunities to take advantage of this offer and gain free entry to national parks across the country. (That said, always be sure to double check that your destination park is participating if you don’t want to face an unpleasant surprise when you arrive at the gates!)

National Park Annual Pass

Can’t make any of those dates for your national park trip this year?

No worries. There are lots of other ways to save money on your excursion in the great outdoors — such as investing in an annual park pass (or taking advantage of a free or discounted one, if you fall into certain demographics!)


The National Park Service offers its America the Beautiful Pass, which gets you into more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country, for a standard fee of $80 per year. The pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas, or up to four adults at sites that charge per person. (Children age 15 or under are admitted for free!)

If you have a permanent disability, or you’re a current active duty military member, you can get one of these annual passes for free, as can students for the duration of their 4th grade school year. And seniors aged 62 or older can get a lifelong annual pass for the same $80 the rest of us pay for a single year — or choose to pay $20 yearly instead.

These annual passes are invaluable for those who spend lots of time traveling around between multiple national parks, such as full-time RVers. But if you tend to stay in a single area and revisit the same park again and again, you could also purchase a park-specific annual pass, which usually runs more along the order of $50 or so.

It’s also important to note that many very famous parks and attractions are not actually managed by the National Park Service, but are rather privately owned, and thus may charge you for entrance on an entirely different fee schedule. For instance, Monument Valley Park is actually tribally owned, as is Meteor Crater, which lies just outside of Winslow, Arizona. That means that your annual national parks pass won’t get you entry to either of these locations — you’ll still have to pay the regular entry fee!

National Park Camping

Camping inside the national parks is a travel bucket list item for many RVers, and it’s a great way to get front-row access to all the action without sacrificing convenience or comfort. Of course, because this way of experiencing the parks is so popular, the national park campgrounds do tend to fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to make your reservations well in advance. Furthermore, some parks don’t actually offer reservations and must simply be utilized on a first-come, first-served basis. If that’s the case at your destination park, be sure to arrive early!

If you’re bringing an RV to the national parks, it’s important to understand that the entry fee doesn’t necessarily cover the cost of your campsite. What’s more, that campsite may or may not have modern amenities like water and electrical hookups. Each national park has its own array of campgrounds to select from, some of which include services and some of which are primitive only. You may have to pay a nightly campsite fee ranging from about $5 to $25, or you may be able to boondock for free. It all depends on the individual park! So again, be sure to check out the information available directly from the Park Service (or one of our helpful National Park Guides!) to get the full details about the camping options at your destination.

National Parks Near Me

Although we often tend to think of the national parks as being mostly concentrated in the wide-open west, no matter what part of our beautiful country you call home, chances are, you’ve got a federal recreation site in your area. Along with actual National Parks, there are also National Monuments, National Historic Sites, National Battlefields, and lots of other amazing landscapes and attractions to discover.

Post originally seen on RVShare.com

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Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic Rivers System

In 2018, the National Park System is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System and the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System!

50 Years of Trails and Rivers On October 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Trails and Wild & Scenic Rivers acts, establishing the two systems. Criteria for designation vary, and elements of the systems are stewarded by a variety of federal, state, and local agencies and nonprofit organizations, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers.

From inspiring stories to fun anniversary events, the 50th is a unique opportunity to #FindYourWay to your own inspirational moments along America’s exceptional rivers and scenic and historic trails! Click here to find events happening near you this National Park Week!

Celebrate National Parks Week in One of Our Top 6 National Park Campsites!

For one week in April, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation celebrate America’s treasures – our national parks! National Park Week is the perfect time to explore amazing places, discover stories of history and culture, help out and find your park. This year, National Park week is April 21 – 29, 2018.

Parks across the country host special programs and events including –

April 21, 2018:  Fee Free Day

April 22, 2018:  Earth Day and 50th Anniversary of our National Wild & Scenic Rivers System and National Trails System.

April 28, 2018: Military and Veteran Recognition Day

April 29, 2018:  National Park Rx Day

 

In honor of the upcoming National Parks Week, we selected our favorite camping spots in our National Parks!

 

Tuweep, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona

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This is the perfect camping spot for the Winnebago Revel. The stunning view from Toroweap Overlook can only be reached by negotiating difficult roads. At 3,000 vertical feet (880 m) above the Colorado River, the sheer drop from Toroweap Overlook offers a dramatic view. The volcanic cinder cones and lava flows in this ancestral home of the Southern Paiute people make this area unique. Tuweep does not allow vehicles longer than 22 ft. so the Revel’s 19’5” are perfect, you will certainly put the off-road tires to use to get to this campsite.

You are in for some serious views when you reach your camping site. Learn more here.

 

Pinon Flats, Great Sand Dunes National Park – Colorado

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Pinon Flats Campground is located in Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in southern Colorado. The huge dunes are the tallest in North America and comprise about 11 percent of an enormous sand deposit that covers more than 330 square miles. The dunes have long stood as a landmark for travelers from ancient North Americans to Southern Ute, Jicarilla Apaches, Navajos, early explorers, gold miners, homesteaders, ranchers, farmers and migrant field workers, to you – today’s park visitor.

Pinon Flats is located one mile north of the Great Sand Dunes NP visitor center and is open April thru October each year. Pinon Flats is a bit more “RV friendly” than Tuweep. There are 3 loops of camping spots, loop 1 and 2 are for tents and RVs up to 35 feet. There are no hookups, but there are local dump stations and a local camping supply store between loop 1 and 2.

Expect to see wildlife at Pinon Flats including black bears! Learn more here.

 

Savage River Campground, Denali National Park – Alaska

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Home to North America’s tallest peak, Denali has been a mecca for mountaineering and adventuring for more than a century. Today, the park continues to enchant climbers, pack-rafters, skiers, dog mushers and athletes seeking to test themselves against the raw, unchecked power of a truly wild landscape.

This campground is near the end of the paved, publicly-accessible portion of the Denali Park Road. You may drive a car or RV to and from the campground any time of the day or night when the campground is open. There are 32 spots available in Savage River Campground and RVs (with tow cars) under 40 ft. are allowed in Savage River Campground. Learn more here.

 

Fruita, Capital Reef National Park – Utah

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The Fruita Campground is often described as an oasis within the desert. Adjacent to the Fremont River and surrounded by historic orchards, this developed campground has 64 RV/tent sites and 7 walk-in tent sites. Each site has a picnic table and firepit (walk-in sites have a grill instead of a firepit), but no individual water, sewage, or electrical hookups. There is a RV dump and potable water fill station near the entrance to Loops A and B. Restrooms feature running water and flush toilets, but no showers. Accessible sites are located adjacent to restrooms. Learn more here.

 

Seawall, Acadia National Park – Maine

 

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Seawall Campground is located in breathtaking Acadia National Park on the western side of Mount Desert Island on the Maine Coast. The campground is approximately 18 miles from Bar Harbor and the park loop road. Visitors venture to Acadia for its picturesque scenery, historic sites and recreational activities, including hiking, biking and canoeing.

Southwest Harbor is located on the west side of Mount Desert Island. The west side of the Island is considered the “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island. All the sites at Seawall Campground are wooded and within a 10-minute walk to the ocean. There are many beautiful and quiet hiking trails on this side of the Island, as well as Echo lake, a wonderful lake for swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and picnics. Acadia is comprised of a cluster of islands on the Atlantic coast of Maine. Mountains, lakes, streams, wetlands, forests, meadows and beaches are all found within roughly 45,000 acres comprising Acadia. Explore Acadia here.

 

Slough Creek, Yellowstone National Park – Wyoming

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Slough Creek Campground is located in Lamary Valley near some of the best wildlife watching opportunities in the park. Located at the end of a two-mile graded dirt road, this campground is best suited for tents and small RVs. Slough Creek is a very popular stream for fishing. The famous, scenic Beartooth Pass is a short drive away. There are plenty of hiking opportunities nearby, including the Slough Creek Trail which begins nearby. Nighttime offers a quiet, unimpeded view of the stars and the possibility of hearing wolves howl.

Visit Yellowstone and experience the world’s first national park. Marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mudpots, and geysers. Explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold. Discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Learn more here.