The National Park Service has five entrance fee-free days this year and the next one is Saturday, Sept. 24, National Public Lands Day.
The free admission days are designed to encourage discovery and visitation of the country’s variety of national parks. With at least one in every state, national parks are accessible places to visit to refresh body, mind and spirit.
“Whether on an entrance fee-free day or throughout the year, we encourage everyone to discover their national parks and the benefits that come from spending time outdoors,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.
Here are some experiences from the perspective of TDS associates:
“While I was born in Michigan and lived the first 36 years of my life there, my mother’s family was from East Tennessee. As a child we would come to visit relatives, I always love coming to Tennessee to see the beautiful mountains and all the wildlife. The Great Smoky Mountains offer so much beauty in the plants, wildlife and the many different outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, whitewater rapids, and so much more. This is why I truly enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains. Not to mention I am happy to be blessed with living where so much beauty abounds.”
Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado is home to 58 peaks that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level. At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak stands taller than all other summits in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Located in the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, Longs Peak is a popular destination for climbers.
When Johnny Olivas, senior warehouse technician, first attempted to climb this prominent mountain, he made it to the start of the Keyhole Route to the summit before turning around due to incoming storms.
Although climbing may not be for everyone, there are plenty of roads that wind through the picturesque Rockies. “I highly recommend every visitor drive over Trail Ridge Road,” Johnny said. “It is the highest continuously paved road in North America, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet.”
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its unique sandstone hoodoos—irregular columns of towering red rock formed by erosion. Not technically a canyon, Bryce is a deep geological amphitheater excavated by thousands of years of weathering and erosion.
Sarah Reister, administrator of Order Management, often visits the park in southwestern Utah. “I love living in Utah because of the several national parks, but Bryce is beyond comparison,” she said. “It is other-worldly.”
According to Paul Fredrickson, senior business systems Analyst at TDS Corporate, “the best way to experience (Bryce Canyon) is to hike past the sign that reads ‘down is optional, up is mandatory’ and explore the bottom of the canyon.
Olympic National Park
Situated just south of the Canadian border, Olympic National Park is the largest park in Washington state. The park contains three unique ecosystems—the subalpine forest and wildflower meadow, the old-growth temperate forest, and the stunning Pacific coastline.
Lewis Clark, network consultant, first visited the park with his wife this past spring. “We heard a lot of great things about the park, and it did not disappoint,” he said.
“We really enjoy waterfalls and wild rivers, and there are plenty of those in the temperate rain forests of Olympic,” Lewis said. We only explored a few of the many amazing places within Olympic, so now that we have seen the basics, our next visit will be longer and better planned.”
Recreational experiences at national parks can range from a relaxing picnic to a thrilling white-water adventure and everything in between, including walking, camping, fishing, stargazing, swimming and paddling. Programs at cultural sites and historical sites are also available at the National Parks. There are also many opportunities to view wildlife in their natural habitats and see geological wonders.
To help plan your visits, stop at NPS.gov or the NPS app. Online you can find tips to help you Plan Like a Park Ranger and Recreate Responsibly. It is important to know before you go what is open and available, especially if you are interested in staying overnight. There are maps, updated conditions and suggested activities to help you decide where to go and what to do. Regardless of activity, visitors should follow Leave No Trace principles.
The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days applies only to National Park Service entrance fees and does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.
Most national parks do not have entrance fees at all.
Out of more than 400 national parks, approximately 110 have admission fees that range from $5 to $35. Money provided by entrance fees remain in the National Park Service and 80-100% stays in the park where collected.
The funds are used to directly support the visitor experience by providing programs and services, habitat restoration and building maintenance and repair.
In 2020, $170 million was collected in entrance fees. n 2020, 237 million people visited national parks and spent $14.5 billion in local communities. This supported 234,000 jobs across the country and had a $28.6 billion impact on the U.S. economy.
Free annual passes to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks, are available for members of the U.S. Military and their dependents, U.S. Military veterans, Gold Star Families, fourth grade students, and eligible NPS volunteers. U.S. Citizens with a permanent disability can obtain a free lifetime pass. U.S. Citizens 62 years and older can purchase an $80 lifetime pass or a $20 annual pass. And the annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is a great option for those who visit multiple parks each year. Those traveling with passholders can usually also enter parks for free.
The free entrance dates for 2022 are:
- Monday, Jan. 17 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Saturday, April 16 – First Day of National Park Week
- Thursday, Aug. 4 – Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- Saturday, Sept. 24 – National Public Lands Day
- Friday, Nov. 11 – Veterans Day