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US National Parks to waive entrance fees for MLK Day


(CNN) — National parks in the United States proved to be wildly popular in 2021. They set various attendance records with a pandemic-fatigued public looking for safe things to do.

And now the US National Park Service has an offer in 2022 for an inflation-shocked public as well: Five days when the entrance fees are waived at every park in the country.

The first one is coming up on Monday, January 17, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

You can check this link for other possible closures anytime before you head out for a trip.

“January is a great month to visit Death Valley,” said James Woolsey, acting superintendent, in a news release. “The low-angle winter sunlight makes the contours of the sand dunes and mountains more photogenic.”

Other free days this year

Can’t make it for MLK Day? The other four free entrance dates are scattered throughout the seasons and the calendar:

• Thursday, August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act

• Saturday, September 24:  National Public Lands Day

• Friday, November 11: Veterans Day

“Whether on an entrance fee-free day or throughout the year, we encourage everyone to discover their national parks and the benefits that come from spending time outdoors,” National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a news release.

The entrance fee waiver won’t cover fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.

Given how popular the parks were in 2021, it might be a good idea to plan early, arrive early and check online for potential timed entries on the free days, especially at the most popular parks.

Many parks are free all year

An alligator swims at Everglades National Park in Florida.

An alligator swims at Everglades National Park in Florida.

RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

NPS said that most national parks do not have entrance fees at all. Out of more than 400 national parks, about 110 have admission fees that range from $5 to $35.

Of course, like anything else, it’s the big names that command the money: Yellowstone in Wyoming (and bits of Montana and Idaho), Yosemite in California, Denali in Alaska and Everglades in Florida, to name four.

And some groups of people can also get in free all year with annual passes:

• US military members and their dependents, US veterans and Gold Star families

• Fourth grade students

• Eligible NPS volunteers

Finally, US citizens with a permanent disability can get a free lifetime pass.

Top image: Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. (Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images)



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MD Abdullah
Abdullah is a former educator, lifelong money nerd, and a Plutus Award-winning freelance writer who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.
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