Hooray for a Free Day in the National Parks

Celebrate the National Park Service's 103rd birthday (and drive through the gate of a favorite park without paying a thing).

What to Know

  • Sunday, Aug. 25
  • Entrance fee waived at over 100 sites in the National Park System
  • Yosemite, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree are on the list

What do you usually dig for, in the jam-packed console of your car or in your glove box or on the seat next to you, as you pull up to the gate of a national park?

You might be searching for a park map, the one you bought at a travel bookstore years ago. You might be checking to see if you have sunscreen, which is always a must for a hike or a picnic in a park.

And you're likely looking for a form of payment, because passing through the front gate in many national parks requires that you hand a ranger cash or a card, all to pay the fee.

But you won't need to dig through your console for cash on Sunday, Aug. 25, for that's the anniversary of the National Park Service system. (It's 103, if you're counting at home, and, yep, Aug. 25 is the very day back in 1916 when President Wilson signed the official act.)

It's a day that's traditionally observed as a fee-free holiday in all of the parks that charge a fee at the entrance, including destinations like Yosemite National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

If you know your NPS trivia, you'll know that just over a fourth of the parks, give or take, ask for a get-in fee, while the bulk of the sites are free all year long.

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Still, though, some 115 parks will scrap that pay-now moment on Aug. 25, giving all visitors the chance to sail through the gate without paying a dime. 

Of course, you can still kindly drop a few bucks in the donation box at the visitor center, dollars that will help programs and more at our national parks.

Where will you go? What will you see? Will you call upon a favorite place or explore a fresh trail, waterfall, desert expanse?

Begin here, adventurers, for this highly auspicious August occasion. There are two more free NPS days to go in 2019, do note, in late September and again on Veterans Day.

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