Free U.S. Parking in September 2011

12 Aug

Waterfall at Yosemite National Park, Photo by DanNg, NPS

You might have watched Oprah and Gayle’s great adventure in Yosemite National Park during Oprah’s last season. It looked beautiful and all the  394 National Parks offer some aspect of beauty. Entrance to all the parks are inexpensive and the system offers several fee-free days throughout the year.  The next free day happens in September when the National Park Service (NPS) waives the entrance fees at all the parks for Public Lands Day.

The entire schedule of fee-free days in 2011:

  • January 15-17
    (Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday weekend)
  • April 16-24
    (National Park Week)
  • June 21
    (First day of summer)
  • September 24
    (Public Lands Day)
  • November 11-13
    (Veterans Day weekend)

Visit NPS ( for more details. However, visiting a National Park  is a bargain even with fees. For instance, entrance fees at Yosemite in California and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado run $20 per carload for non-tour visitors, while Casa Grande Ruins National Monument charges $5 per person.  These fees gain visitors entry for seven consecutive days. Different fees apply for commercial tours, students and senior citizens. Disabled guests and kids ages 15 and under get free admission.

Each park offers a park specific annual pass (~$40) and the America the Beautiful–National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80).  These passes cover entrance and all standard amenity fees for the driver and all passengers in non-commercial vehicles for parks with a flat fee; and up to four adults for the parks that have a per person charge. Both are valid for one year. The latter pass provides access to the entire National Park Service properties and federal lands managed by five different government agencies. U.S. senior citizen, 62 years and older, pay only $10 for a lifetime Senior Pass. A free lifetime Access Pass is available for visitors with permanent disabilities.

If you can't make it on one of the fee-free days, note that only 147 of the 394 parks charge entrance fees.   Click here for a list of the parks that charge fees but will waive them for the fee-free dates. Again, all the park fees are nominal. For visitors planning overnight stays, check the site of the desired park for lodging prices.  To sweeten the deal, some of the national park 600 concessionaires reduce their prices during the entrance free days. This also includes special offers such as discounted tours, some as much as half off. Concessionaires offer diverse services, such as food, lodging, retail shops, and transportation.      

Keep in mind that the national parks aren't just for camping. You can choose to:
  • hike in the majestic beauty
  • picnic near the awe-inspiring waterfalls
  • Relive history in a horse-drawn stage ride for a tour of history or check out history brought to life in performances at the park theater
  • Learn to capture the park’s enchantment through a photography class at the Ansel Adams Gallery
  • Take a stroll with a ranger – your kids might even earn their Junior Ranger badge
  • Take the two-hour Immersion Tour in an open air train (no worries about being stranded like Gilligan)
Click the names to take a look at the event brochures for Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Big Bend National Park in Texas, as well as the Big Bend newspaper.
While reservations aren’t necessary, the NPS strongly recommends that you call the intended national park to check the weather and event schedules for the day(s) of your visit.
With 394 national parks, finding one within driving distance shouldn’t be a problem. Go forth and park.


Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Consumer, Economic, Know this?, Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Free U.S. Parking in September 2011

  1. LM Preston

    August 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    This place is on my To Go destination list.

    • dlcommunicates

      August 21, 2011 at 11:22 am

      It’s a great value, even without the fee-free days, that I intend to take advantage of, too!


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