The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016, so now’s a good time to start planning your visits for the coming year. This centennial celebration has actually been in the works for 10 years. On August 25, 2006 – the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS)– the Secretary of the Interior launched the National Park Centennial Initiative to prepare national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. So not only does this special birthday mark the achievements of the past 100 years, but it also looks to the future. From the establishment of the first park in 1872—Yellowstone—national parks have offered something for everyone—spectacular scenery, a sanctuary for wildlife, historic landmarks, cultural treasures, and a wide variety of outdoor recreation.
Whether you prefer cold weather or warm weather destinations, you will find over 400 national park properties throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories. Properties under the jurisdiction of the NPS include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, and recreation areas. In 2016, the NPS is offering free admission to all national park properties on 16 specific dates. The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees, however, charges for reservations, camping, tours, concessions and fees collected by third parties are not usually waived.
Mark your calendars for these free entrance days in 2016:
• January 18: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
• April 16-24: National Park Week
• August 25-28: National Park Service Birthday Weekend
• September 24: National Public Lands Day
• November 11: Veterans Day
Visitation at America’s national parks broke all-time records in 2014 (292.8 million visits), breaking the record from 1999 when parks saw just over 287.1 million visits. As you might expect, millions of people flock to national parks during the summer (especially to Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite), but by going in the off seasons, you are likely to beat the crowds and traffic. Most parks are open year-round, but since weather conditions can affect roads and campgrounds, be sure to call ahead and confirm conditions.
In celebration of the upcoming centennial, the NPS hopes to inspire all people to connect with, enjoy, and support America’s national parks. So why not do just that, and if your trip timing is right, take advantage of the free admission days and save some money while you explore.
IF YOU GO:
Visit findyourpark.com to plan your trips for 2016 and beyond.