It doesn’t take much to convince us to go on an adventure, but it definitely helps when starting the adventure is free! Free national park days are a great reminder to get out into nature near you, or a great excuse to take that national park road trip you’ve been thinking about.

Mark your calendars! Here are the 5 free national park days coming up this year and our top national parks to visit for each one.

April 17: First day of National Park Week

Enjoy free entry to every national park on Saturday, April 17 to kick off National Park Week. Virtual events throughout the week honor volunteers, reflect on the National Park Service’s history, and offer ways for children and adults to get involved, but Saturday is the day to visit any park in person for free. 

Where should you go? 

Late spring is an ideal time to explore the southwest. The weather is warm, but the popular parks aren’t as crowded as the summer months. Make use of your free day at Grand Canyon National Park or any of Utah’s popular attractions (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, or Canyonlands).

We Spent 15 Days in a Cabana: Our Washington to Utah Itinerary
Bryce Canyon (Photo Credit: Pixelicious Planet)

August 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act

The Great American Outdoors Act was a major victory in guaranteeing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and expanding wilderness protections –– and the anniversary is a great reason to spend the day outside! Because this free day lands on a Wednesday, it probably won’t draw the same crowd as National Park Week, so plan ahead for a late summer vacation and you’ll be in for a treat.

Where should you go?

This free day is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a must-see park that has a fairly small visitation window: Mount Rainier. July and August is your best chance at a really glorious day of hiking among the wildflowers in Mt Rainier National Park. 

If you’re looking to take a quick trip from Los Angeles, take a few days to visit Yosemite National Park. Although the park will likely be busy, it’s popular in the summer for good reason! For nearby and less crowded options, check out Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Driving through Yosemite (Photo Credit: West Coast Insiders)

August 25: National Park Service Birthday

The National Park Service is turning 105 this year! It’s hard to imagine what these glorious mountains, awe-inspiring canyons, and valuable ecosystems would be now if Woodrow Wilson hadn’t established the National Park Service in 1916. Celebrate this huge win for conservation with another free day that falls on a Wednesday. It’s a perfect excuse to celebrate all of the beautiful land we can easily take for granted.

Where should you go?

As summer comes to a close, take this opportunity to visit another park with a small visitation window. Crater Lake National Park in Oregon begins closing for winter in October. Make your way here in the summer to experience one of the Pacific Northwest’s most glorious alpine lakes. 

Another park with a short but spectacular hiking season is Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. There are so many hikes to choose from, so even though the park gets busy, you’ll have plenty to do.

Rocky Mountain National Park (Photo Credit: Steve Adams)

September 25: National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest single day volunteer effort. You can volunteer, or enjoy a day of free park entrance and recreate responsibly

Where should you go?

Visit the National Park Service volunteer page to find volunteer events near you. To take advantage of the free entry day, visit Yellowstone National Park for pleasant weather without the summer crowds. Wherever you go, be sure to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles. For National Public Lands Day, go above and beyond and leave every area better than you found it. 

Yellowstone National Park (Photo Credit: Mio Monasch)

November 11: Veterans Day

The last free entry day of the year is Veteran’s Day. This is a great day to visit iconic US landmarks or to enjoy the natural beauty that makes America special. 

Where should you go?

Because this is the only free entrance day in the cooler months, it’s a great opportunity to visit a desert landscape. Drive into Joshua Tree National Park before sunrise to get the most out of the iconic Joshua Tree views. 

Big Bend National Park in Texas is an ideal spot for hiking in November. In the mild weather, you can hike the desert, the river, or the Chisos Mountains. With so much variety, this park is worth spending much more than a free day.

A Weekend Trip to Joshua Tree National Park
Big Bend National Park (Photo Credit: Caleb Fisher)

Whether you’ll be crossing the country to check national parks off your bucket list or visiting a nearby nature conservancy, use these free days as reminders to get outdoors!