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5 Days You Can Visit National Parks For Free in 2023

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The US National Park System has announced its 2023 dates for fee-free entrance to all of its sites, giving you just another reason to visit one this year. 

Yes, for FREE, you can gaze into the Grand Canyon, stand in awe of the giant redwoods, or watch Old Faithful’s powerful spray. 

traveler looking out at the grand canyon

Why Visit National Parks?

As the environment has changed drastically over recent years, national parks are becoming ever more important in preserving the natural landscape of America. These parks help work to protect wildlife, preserve natural resources, and help to ensure air and water remain clean. Aside from the environmental benefits, national parks also help us to understand the land better and connect with the nature around us. 

If you are looking to explore some of America’s 400+ national parks this year, mark these dates down on your calendar.

death valley

The 2023 Free Entry Dates Are: 

  • Monday, January 16th: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Saturday, April 22nd: First Day of National Park Week
  • Friday, August 4th: Great American Outdoors Day
  • Saturday, September 23rd: National Public Lands Day 
  • Saturday, November 11th: Veterans Day 

These dates span all 4 seasons and fall on weekdays and weekends, helping to ensure as many people as possible can take advantage of this fee-free entry.

Things To Remember  

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people hiking redwoods

With the rise in popularity of national parks, it’s always crucial to plan early for your visit, even more so if you are looking to visit on a free entry day. 

Check online to see if your park is enforcing timed entries, keep up to date on the local conditions, book any accommodation very early if you plan to stay overnight, and arrive early on the date of your visit. 

Before heading out, make sure to check for any closures or alerts on the official website.

A Year-Round Destination

national park mountains in snow

National parks don’t need to be considered only summer destinations. Heading to one in January or November might be a great option. Not only will snowy landscapes provide jaw-dropping photos, but you can avoid the warm weather crowds and move at a slower pace. 

A visit in the winter allows opportunities to ski, snowshoe, or hike, so long as the conditions allow. The winter is also known for bringing the clearest skies to the national parks, allowing visitors to gaze at mountain peaks as far as 200 miles away. 

If the smaller crowds are not enough reason, winter is also prime time to view the wildlife that roams throughout the parks. Not only are the animals more active, but spotting them is easier due to their contrasting colors against the snowy white backgrounds. 

Head Away From The Crowds

man standing at grand canyon

It’s well known that the National Park System features a few standout stars, with a handful of parks receiving the majority of visitors each year. 

For example, Yellowstone, Arcadia, Zion, and of course, the Grand Canyon all reign in popularity with visitors from all over the world. These parks are favorites for good reason, with picturesque landscapes, a wide range of wildlife, and natural wonders all to be explored within their borders. 

tortugas national park

While these well-known national parks are deserving of their fanfare, visitors looking for a more unique experience can check out some of America’s lesser-known national parks. If you are interested in venturing away from the crowds, you could catch the Northern Lights in Voyageurs National Park, stargaze in Great Basin, or snorkel in Dry Tortugas. Just remember to always check local conditions on the official website before you visit. 

Can’t Make the Free Dates?

While these free entry days are exciting, don’t rule out a national park visit if you can't make it on one of the designated dates. You might be surprised to learn that many of America's 400+ national parks are actually free to enter year-round. 

sequoia sign

For the parks that require a paid entry, the average admittance price in 2022 ranged from $5 per person to $35 per vehicle. The funds generated from these entry fees are funneled directly back into the park system, with at least 80% going right to the park in which you are visiting. 

Think you might spend a lot of time visiting national parks this year? If so, you could always consider buying the “America the Beautiful” park pass, which allows yearly unlimited access to the national parks as well as numerous other recreational areas. The 2023 price for America the Beautiful Pass is $80 and covers 2 adults (children under 16 are free). 

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