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Visit Any National Park for Less Money

Visit Any National Park for Less MoneyVisit Any National Park for Less Money

Our national parks have been dubbed America's best idea. It began with Yellowstone, the first national park signed into being by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, to the 59th and newest, California's Pinnacles National Park, enacted in January 2013. American citizens own 84 million acres in every U.S. state and territory. Currently, 401 designated monuments, battlefields, recreational areas, trails, preserves, and seashores are all protected by the National Park Service. We own big parks like the Grand Canyon and small sites like the Lincoln Memorial.

Admission Prices Vary

The price of admission varies by park, season, mode of transport on arrival, age, military status, length of stay, and frequency of visits. How can you benefit from the best deal out there, whether you're a frequent parks visitor, planning a last-minute visit, or taking the trip of a lifetime?

Free Days

First off, a reminder that 265 national parks are free of admission to all every day.

On a dozen selected days throughout the year, national parks normally charging $3 to $25 for entry are open to the public for free. From year to year, these free days change. The number of free days was expanded in 2009 in recognition of a tough economy but were cut back in 2012 due to that tough economy affecting the government's own purse strings. Remaining free days in 2013 include August 25, National Parks Service birthday; September 28, National Public Lands Day; and November 9-11, Veterans Day weekend.

Visit Any National Park for Less MoneyVisit Any National Park for Less Money

Annual Passes

Frequent park visitors can purchase annual passes for $80, offering access to the entire park system plus designated federal recreational lands. Two owners can share a pass by signing it, and up to three passengers per vehicle are covered. Since 2012, U.S. military members and their dependents qualify for free annual passes, which also cover traveling companions in the same vehicle. An access pass for permanently disabled citizens is available with certain medical documents.

Other Special Admission Prices

Baby boomers may not think of themselves as seniors quite yet, but it's time to recalculate. For $10, seniors age 62 and over can obtain a lifetime senior pass. Apply through the mail for an additional $10 fee. Up to four accompanying passengers in the senior's vehicle are also admitted. Children under the age of 16 are admitted free of charge to all parks throughout the year.

Volunteers Making a Difference

About 220,000 people volunteer in our national parks to assist with cleanup, recycling, guiding, hosting campgrounds, retail service at gift shops, storytelling, and serving the 278 million annual visitors in so many ways. That's a significant number -- in fact, it's 10 times the number of full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees. Every volunteer reaching 250 hours of service receives a well-deserved annual volunteer pass as a way of saying thank you.

The National Park Service wants us to get out there to discover America the beautiful from sea to shining sea; take a camera, have fun, respect the parks, and share the experience.

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