Free National Park Days of 2021: 6 Days to Avoid Admission Fees This Year

by Emily Morgan

Hikers gear up! The National Park Service is offering six “fee-free” days at national parks across the country this year. 

During the recent chaos of 2020, our national parks offered hikers refuge, restoration, and recreation. This year, hikers, fishers, and climbers will be able to access our national lands 365 days a year, with some of those dates offering free admission. With more than 400 national parks nationwide, the NPS likely has a spot near you.

Only 108 of those parks have entrance fees, and if you’re looking to save a few bucks, these are the days you can. More good news: this year’s free days at national parks are up from 5 in 2020 to 6 in 2021 — thanks to the new Great American Outdoors Day holiday.

2021’s Fee-Free Days At National Parks

 The dates for 2021 are:

  • Monday, January 18 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Saturday, April 17 – First Day of National Park Week
  • Wednesday, August 4 – First anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • Wednesday, August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
  • Saturday, September 25 – National Public Lands Day
  • Thursday, November 11 – Veterans Day 

Great American Outdoors Day

In 2020, legislators added the Great American Outdoors Day to the NPS calendar to commemorate the passage’s Great American Outdoors Act. The act is a bipartisan bill that adds funding and resources to support the NPS’s maintenance and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Over the last few years, fee-free days have fallen short due to the massive maintenance backlog and budget shortfalls within the parks’ system. From 2017 to 2018, the government lowered 12 free days from 16 to 4.

As funding from the GAOA straps the NPS with more resources, we could potentially see more fee-free days.

Fifth-Graders, Veterans, and Gold Star Families Receive Free Entrance

Since 2015, The Every Kid Outdoors program grants fourth graders in the United States a free National Parks pass for their family. Due to coronavirus, fifth-graders in 2021 can once again seize the opportunity to get outdoors and see our beautiful lands. 

In addition, active-duty military and their families also received free access to parks. In 2020, Secretary Bernhardt signed orders giving veterans and their families free life access to all parks across the nation.

Individuals 62 years and older also receive a discount on the annual pass as well. Seniors can purchase the yearly pass for $20 each year. The government has also given them the option to pay $80 for lifelong access.