The USA’s national parks are where you’ll find some of the country’s most incredible adventures — and for five days this year, all of them will be free to enter. The next free day of 2023 is Saturday, April 22, to celebrate the launch of National Park Week.
The weeklong celebration encourages people to enjoy the US national parks in person. Though park fees are only waived on April 22 (which is also Earth Day), activities celebrating the park system will continue through April 30. Check with individual parks to find the times and dates of all the planned special activities.
There are more than 400 National Park Service (NPS) sites across the US, with representation in each state and territory and the District of Columbia. While the vast majority of these sites are free year-round, many of the most famous national parks in the country — including popular destinations like Yosemite and Joshua Tree — charge an entrance fee. For example, the per-vehicle cost to enter Yosemite is $35 for a seven-day pass, while it’s $20 per person (over the age of 16) when entering by foot, bike or horse.
There are just five days in the calendar year when the NPS makes its protected lands free for all to enter, so put these dates in your calendar when planning your 2023 adventures.
The National Park Service’s 2023 free dates
- January 16 – Martin Luther King Jr Day
- April 22 – First day of National Park Week
- August 4 – Great American Outdoors Day
- September 23 – National Public Lands Day
- November 11 – Veterans Day
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Do I need to make a reservation?
Lands controlled by NPS have seen an increase in visitors in recent years, particularly among first-timers, as pandemic-weary hikers, ramblers, and day-trippers hit popular parks in their droves. This led to some issues in overcrowding, trail erosion, trash and vandalism, long queues, and traffic jams across US national parks. In response, many popular parks introduced reservation and timed entry systems to manage crowds.
Yosemite recently announced it would suspend its online reservation system for 2023, while others, like Glacier and Zion, have only suspended their reservation passes for off-season. It’s worth checking the current rules for whatever park you intend to visit to ensure you don’t miss out.
Save the date: Here’s when the most popular US National Parks permits go online
Since many parks are likely to be busier on fee-free days, why not try some lesser-visited alternatives to take the heat off the most popular national parks?
For more information on national parks around the USA, visit nps.gov.