All parks budgets are squeezed to the max, but free national and state park entry passes are still a relatively easy thing to get. You’ll need to plan your RV trip carefully to do it, but the effort is worthwhile when you save the cash.
3 Tips for Free National And State Park Visits
Before getting started in your search for a free national and state park visit, remember a couple of things. First, you’ll save money with a free entrance pass, but in most cases the savings only apply to the actual park entry fee. Camping and other recreational fees like fishing usually apply once you’re inside the park. Second, those free park days tend to be quite busy, so don’t expect a ton of solitude once you arrive. Aside from those two limitations (and maybe others depending on the specific pass and location), scoring a free visit is pretty easy. Here’s how.
Go RVing on Free National Park Days
Unless you or a close family member qualifies for the free national parks pass for military members, or you have a child who qualifies for the free annual pass for fourth grade students, national park visits are more expensive all the time. The best way to get around the increases is by planning your adventure around any of the National Parks System’s free days that take place every year.
Drive into a national park on one of five annual free entry days and you’ll get a free ride for as long as the usual entry fee is good for (often up to seven days), as long as you never leave the gates. Keep these U.S. National Park Free Days in mind when planning your next adventure:
January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
April 20 – First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
August 25 – National Park Service Anniversary
September 28 – National Public Lands Day
November 11 – Veterans Day
Look for Free Days at Your Nearest State Park
Just do an internet search for “(your state) state park free days in (year)” and you might find a list of free park entrance days somewhere you want to camp.
For instance, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is legally required to give residents 12 free Washington state park free entry days per year.
Oftentimes, free days coincide with some sort of state celebration. Places like Vermont and Colorado offer free admission on or around their statehood day celebrations. Other states like South Dakota have an Open House weekend with free admission to state parks. And Nevada offers free state park entry on Nevada Public Lands Days. Thankfully many of these celebrations are during the summer camping season!
Last but not least, most states offer free park entry all year round for military members.
Volunteer at National and State Parks
Perhaps the best way to get free national and state park entrance is to help the park systems with your time and labor. Many states like Georgia offer free days for volunteers on certain days of the year. And the National Park Service gives a free entry pass to volunteers who log 250 or more hours of work with the parks.
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in states like Connecticut and New Hampshire, which offer free state park entry to residents with valid car license plates. That’s when an internet search engine can be your best friend to help you find free park entry fees that work with your travel schedule. Good luck and happy camping!
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.