Free National Park Days: The 5 Best Days to Visit in 2023

Travelers often ask when is the best time to visit a national park. Although any day in a national park is fantastic, we will reveal the five best days to visit in 2023.

The National Park Service (NPS) will offer five entrance fee-free days in 2023 to celebrate national parks and promote outdoor recreation. All national parks will waive admission fees as part of the celebration. Any regular fees for activities, tours, and camping still apply.

When are the free national park days?

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: January 16, 2023
  • First day of National Park Week: April 22, 2023
  • Great American Outdoors Day: August 4, 2023
  • National Public Lands Day: September 23, 2023
  • Veterans Day: November 11, 2023

National Parks With Entrance Fees

The NPS protects more than 400 sites throughout the United States and our territories. If we narrow down the list to only national parks, there are 63, with 41 regularly charging entrance fees and 22 being free.

Entrance fees for the parks that charge vary from $5 to $35. If you aim to get the most value on the free national park days, you are likely asking yourself which parks usually have admission fees. 

National parks with admission fees are listed below by state.

Alaska

Arizona

California

  • Death Valley National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Yosemite National Park

Colorado

  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park

Florida

Hawaii

  • Haleakala National Park
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Idaho

  • Yellowstone National Park

Indiana

  • Indiana Dunes National Park

Maine

  • Acadia National Park

Michigan

  • Isle Royale National Park

Missouri

  • Gateway Arch National Park

Montana

Nevada

  • Death Valley National Park

New Mexico

North Dakota

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Oregon

  • Crater Lake National Park

South Dakota

  • Badlands National Park

Texas

Utah

  • Arches National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Zion National Park

Virginia

Washington

  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Olympic National Park

Wyoming

  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park

National Park Passes & Discounts

View of Glacier Bay from cruise ship
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

If you cannot visit on one of the free national park days, there are additional ways to save money.

The NPS manages Sequoia and Kings Canyon as one giant park, even though they are separate. As such, paying entrance fees for one automatically grants access to the other.

Some parks are close to others, lending to multiple visits on a road trip. When planning a trip, start with states housing more than one park and map out your adventure.

You can purchase an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80, granting you access to all our national parks throughout the year. The NPS offers passes and discounts to U.S. military families, military veterans, disabled citizens, senior citizens, and fourth graders. Visit the NPS site for details.

Free National Parks

Which national parks do not collect entrance fees? Here is the list by state.

Alaska

  • Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
  • Katmai National Park & Preserve
  • Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Kobuk Valley National Park
  • Lake Clark National Park
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

American Samoa

  • National Park of American Samoa

Arkansas

  • Hot Springs National Park

California

Florida

  • Biscayne National Park

Kentucky

  • Mammoth Cave National Park

Minnesota

  • Voyageurs National Park

Nevada

  • Great Basin National Park

North Carolina

Ohio

South Carolina

  • Congaree National Park

South Dakota

  • Wind Cave National Park

Tennessee

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Virgin Islands

  • Virgin Islands National Park

Washington

  • North Cascades National Park

West Virginia

  • New River Gorge National Park

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and Wind Cave in South Dakota are free to enter, but you must pay fees for a cave tour, the main attraction for many visitors.

Other Considerations

Beyond entrance fees, consider weather and crowd levels when planning your visit. The NPS maintains a website for each national park where you can find information on hours of operation, weather, current conditions, and things to do.

Each park sets its hours. Many parks offer more summer activities due to weather and staffing. You may discover fewer areas to explore in winter. Visit the specific park website for current information before your trip.

May through September is a great time to visit most parks, so you have improved odds of decent weather and plenty of activities. However, crowd levels tend to be higher during these months.

Wrap-Up: Free National Park Days

Have you dreamed about exploring the Grand Canyon? Now is your chance to visit any of our most treasured lands at a lower cost. Plan a visit in 2023 on one of the free national park days. You will be richer for it.

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About the author

We are Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey. After nearly 30 years, we took a leap of faith out of the corporate world to enjoy a life of travel and adventure. We hope to inspire you to find ways to travel more and enjoy life now.

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