You Can Visit All the National Parks for Free Next Weekend

Apr 11, 2019

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This spring, you can get into the spirit of the season with a free visit to one of the country’s most beautiful parks.

On April 20, National Park Week kicks-off with a fee-free day for all National Parks across the US. From Maine to Alaska, there are 418 National Parks to choose from and with normal park fees reaching up to $20 per person or $30 per vehicle (not including parking permits), this is a great opportunity to save on a visit to one of the country’s most picturesque places.

National Park Week has been happening every year since 1991, when it was introduced to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National Park Service. The establishment of the first National Park — Yosemite — happened more than a century ago, when President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, setting aside parkland for preservation and public use.

Yosemite National Park. Photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash.

Of the country’s 418 National Parks, 112 charge entry fees range from $3 to $20 per person or $30 per car. To save the most on a National Parks getaway, you might want to spend April 20 in one of the nation’s most expensive parks: Bryce Canyon National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park, which all charge $20 per person or $30 per vehicle to enter.

“National Park Week is a great time to explore parks near you, and free admission days are always popular,” Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, told The Points Guy. “Step one is to find your park. Visit (or for ideas on nearby parks to visit. I also recommend giving the national park’s visitor center a call before you arrive to find out if they have special activities planned, what areas are best for avoiding crowds, and any tips on parking or public transit options for getting to the park.”

Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Owen Rupp on Unsplash.
Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Owen Rupp on Unsplash.

In addition to being fee-free, April 20 is also National Junior Ranger Day, so you can expect to find special programming for kids at many parks. For the rest of the week following April 20, each day has a theme. For Earth Day on April 22, you can learn about preservation. Bark Ranger Day, on April 27, is dedicated to pet-friendly activities in the parks. See the full list here.

Use Points to Stay Near a National Park

In addition to enjoying free entry to the National Parks on April 20, you can make the entire trip budget-friendly by using points to stay in the park, or nearby. (Just keep in mind that some parks will draw serious crowds on a fee-free day, so go as early in the day as you can). Here are a few examples of how hotel points can compliment a National Parks trip.

Moab, Utah

Located near Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, Moab offers several points-friendly lodging options:

Canyonlands (Buddy Smith / The Points Guy)

Springdale, Utah

The town of Springdale is just outside Zion National Park, and has a number of chain hotels where travelers can redeem points without sacrificing location. The aptly-named Holiday Inn Express Springdale – Zion National Park Area, for example, is available from 40,000 IHG points a night and is one of the best-rated hotels in the area. It could be a great use of the free night certificate awarded every anniversary from the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card.  Other great points properties include:

Image courtesy of Holiday Inn Express Springdale
Image courtesy of Holiday Inn Express Springdale

Grand Tetons

Jackson Hole is itself a destination, but is also serves as a great home base when visiting the Grand Tetons. Some of the best points properties in the area are:

SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Don’t stress if you miss the National Parks free admission day, as TPG has tips to help you save money on national parks visits all throughout the year, and we also have kid-specific tips in case you are making a family affair out of your next National Parks adventure.

Featured photo of Zion National Park by Rich Martello on Unsplash.

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