4 ways to save on National Park fees

Posted By Allison on Jan 2, 2017

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Did you know?

The U.S. National Parks are a bargain any day of the year, but there are several ways that you can save money on entrance fees.

Visit on a Fee-Free Day

Entrance fees to all U.S. National Parks will be waived on the following dates in 2018:

  • January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 21: First Day of National Park Week
  • September 22: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

The U.S. national parks are a bargain any day of the year, but there are several ways that you can pay even less! Get the current list of fee-free days and find out if you're eligible for a free or discounted annual pass! | tipsforfamilytrips.com | travel | spring break | summer vacation | travel deals | budget travel

Visit a free or less expensive park

Some national park fees are less expensive than others. Popular parks such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Zion charge about $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. On the other hand, Capitol Reef National Park in Utah costs only $10 per vehicle.

Fewer than half of U.S. national parks charge entrance fees. The most visited national park in the U.S., Great Smoky Mountains National Park, does not charge entrance fees anytime.

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Consider an annual pass

Do you live near one or more national parks or are you planning to visit several parks in the same year? An annual pass costs $80. It’s a good deal if you are planning to visit four or more top tier parks, such as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion or Bryce Canyon.

This pass will get you into more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national monuments, wildlife refuges, historic sites, forests and Bureau of Land Management sites. However, it will not waive tour fees at places like Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota.

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Every Kid in a Park

Every Kid in a Park is an exciting program that allows every 4th Grade student in the U.S. (including home schooled children who are 10 years old) to get an annual pass for their family. The program starts each September. Find out more at www.everykidinapark.gov.

National Parks can be found throughout the United States and they make a great budget-friendly vacation. Most national parks offer inexpensive camping and picnicking. Many are located near towns that offer comfortable and affordable lodging and dining.


Are you eligible for a special pass?

  • U.S. Military – A free annual pass is available to members of the U.S. military and their dependents.
  • Senior Pass – For a one-time cost of $80, U.S. citizens and permanent residents over the age of 62 can get a lifetime pass to the parks. Seniors also have the option of purchasing an annual pass for $20.
  • Access Pass – This free lifetime pass is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities.
  • Volunteer pass – Anyone who donates 250 service hours to a participating federal agency is eligible for this pass.

For more information about these special passes, visit the National Park Service website.


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Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.


  1. I’m taking my kids to Zion N.P. in Utah for the first time in April. It’s been over 20 years since I was there and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with my family.

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  2. Someone told me over Twitter yesterday that it’s better to buy annual passes (if your timing allows) at the beginning of the month because you’ll get almost 13 months of use. I have no idea if that’s true but thought I’d throw it out there!

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  3. I believe that you are correct. The annual pass expires on the last day of the month. So, if you buy on March 1, 2014, the pass will expire on March 31, 2015.

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  4. I’m pretty sure you can also borrow free passes from your local library. There are a limited # available so you can’t always get the dates you want! but if you’re flexible on your timing it’s a great way to go.

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    • Great tip! I’ve seen a state parks pass available at the front desk of my local library. It’s definitely worth asking about, wherever you live.

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  5. This is an excellent resource. I’m a big supporter of our National Parks. I always encourage people to visit and include the parks in their travel plans. Now I can share this with them, as well!

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  6. An annual pass is essential for us! I definitely agree with that and also visiting the lesser known parks. Also, visiting in Winter can save you an entrance fee too. We went to Canyonlands NP in February and they don’t charge a fee in Winter because they close the visitors’ center over the colder months.

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  7. If we get a week pass to the Grand Canyon can we use it at other national parks ?

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    • I’m sorry, but park admission is not transferrable. When you purchase a 7-day admission for any national park it is for that park only. If you decide to upgrade to an annual pass, you can apply your Grand Canyon fee to that pass during your visit.

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  8. I have an Access Pass that I purchased for a disabled family member. Will that be accepted for free admission or a discounted admission?

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    • I believe that pass will be good for free admission for everyone in your private vehicle. That’s how it has worked for for us with the Senior Pass and Every Kid in a Park pass. I haven’t used the Access Pass, so you may want to double check with a ranger or or official park literature if you are not sure that it works the same way.

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  9. New post of wonderful way of writing , Amazing photos , I’m glad to be one of your follower , you are the best

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