Get in free to all national parks Saturday, the first of two more free days this year. Sept. 26 is the fifth of six no-fee entrance days. The final one is Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Free entrance applies not only to the country's 62 national parks but also to all of the 420 National Park Service (NPS) sites, which include seashores, forests, preserves and monuments.
"Free entrance days serve as additional motivation for people to get outside and enjoy these places of inspiration and recreation,” said David Vela, then NPS deputy director, when announcing the fee-free days late last year.
Many sites are already free, including Pennsylvania's Gettysburg National Military Park and Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. But some of the most popular sites — such as Grand Canyon, Shenandoah and Yosemite national parks — charge $30 or $35 per vehicle.
Other ways to save on park visits
Another option for budget-conscious frequent visitors: Buy an annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. It allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, seashores and forests.
And if you're 62 or older you are eligible for a $20 annual or $80 lifetime Senior Pass. You can buy those passes online or through the U.S. mail for an additional $10 fee, or buy them in person at a federal recreation site for no extra fee. (See the NPS site for details on all special passes.)
When planning your trip, be sure to check the individual park's website for status updates: Although every park has reopened after shutting down to help stop the spread of coronavirus, some roads or facilities may remain closed or be only partially available to visitors. And many sites in California, including Yosemite, have closed due to the hazardous air quality caused by wildfires in that state.
The NPS isn't requiring visitors to wear masks, but it's encouraging them to do so and to follow safe physical distancing practices. Out-of-state travelers should check a destination's local coronavirus restrictions, such as quarantine rules for travelers.