13 of the Best National Parks to Visit on Free Days
Rejoice, all ye turned away during the government shutdown! The first of nine fee-free days in the national park system is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 20.[slideshow:858]
On these days, the 133 national parks that charge entrance fees—out of 401 parks total—will waive them, including the likes of Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Denali and Everglades National Parks.
But beyond these famous four, rangers at 129 additional parks, most lesser known, will be waving vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians through the entry gates with nary an extended palm (although other fees, such as those for camping and boats, still apply). The already-free parks will remain free.
The eight other fee-free days in 2014 include Presidents Day weekend (February 15 through 17), the first weekend of National Park Week (April 19 and 20), the National Park Service’s 98th birthday (August 25), National Public Lands Day (September 27) and Veterans Day (November 11), according to an NPS press release.
Now that the calendar is set, we thought we’d take the opportunity to pair these dates with seasonally appropriate mates. Parks in the Desert Southwest and Florida, for example, can be perfectly pleasant during the winter months—although we didn’t rule out one overlooked western park with unique winter charm. Likewise, some of the chillier parks feel just right come August, as do northeastern beaches.
Of course, the greatest expense in visiting these natural wonders is getting there. After all, gas and plane tickets aren’t cheap. So even if you can’t make it to one of our picks on the exact day listed, let this list serve instead as inspiration for your next national park adventure.
For a full list of participating parks, visit the NPS website.