Anyone planning a trip to U.S. National Parks in the next month might want to consider doing so on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, for the last free entrance day of 2019.
Fee-free days provide a great opportunity to visit a new place or an old favorite, especially one of the national parks that normally charge an entrance fee.
It's important to note that the entrance fee waiver for fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.
“The entrance fee-free days hosted by the National Park Service are special opportunities to invite visitors, volunteers and veterans to celebrate some important moments for our parks and opportunities for service in those parks,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith in an announcement for the entrance fee-free days for 2019.
Already this year, fee-free days have been held on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 21); the first day of National Park Week (April 20); National Park Service Anniversary (Aug. 25); and National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28). We should expect free days for 2020 to be announced soon with the likely first one being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 20.
The National Park System includes more than 85 million acres and includes national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park site in every U.S. state.
Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.2 billion, which supported 306,000 jobs across the country and had a $35.8 billion impact on the U.S. economy.
Only 115 of the 418 parks managed by the National Park Service charge entrance fees regularly, with fees ranging from $5 to $35. The other 303 national parks do not have entrance fees.
For what it's worth, the NPS is authorized to use entrance and recreation fees for a variety of items related to your experience, such as:
- Repair, maintenance, and facility enhancement related directly to visitor enjoyment, visitor access, and health and safety, such as:
- Redesign of a new accessible visitor center desk at James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Ohio)
- Construction of accessible parking and path to a restroom in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Arizona)
- Repair of historic stone steps, coping wall, and gravel tread on the popular Beech Cliff Loop Trail in Acadia National Park (Maine)
- Replacement of the 162-foot Elkwallow Trail Bridge in Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
- Habitat restoration directly related to wildlife-dependent recreation including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, and photography, such as a volunteer project to repair and maintain boundary fencing that allows visitors to safely observe native elk and pronghorn at Big Hole National Battlefield (Montana)
- Law enforcement related to public use and recreation, such as partnering with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office to provide dispatch services for law enforcement and other emergency operations at Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
- Direct operating or capital costs associated with the recreation fee program to pay for entrance station and campground staff
- Fee management agreements with gateway communities to provide emergency medical services