Every year, the National Park Service releases a list of the dates when park visitors can get into national park sites free in the upcoming year. Over the past few years, there have been anywhere from nine to 17 such fee-free days. For 2018, there will be four.
Here are the four dates on which fees will be waived in 2018 at all 417 NPS sites:
- Jan. 15: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- April 21: First Day of National Park Week
- Sept. 22: National Public Lands Day
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day
This is a huge reduction from the number of fee-free days that the NPS has offered in previous years. In 2011 and 2012, there were 17 fee-free days, including a nine-day stretch celebrating National Park Week from April 16-24. In 2013, that number dropped to 11 before dropping again to nine in 2014 and 2015. The NPS Centennial in 2016 brought the number of fee free days back up to 11 and in 2017, there were 10 fee-free days.
The recent announcement didn't go over well with national park fans.
This reduction, combined with the NPS proposal to increase fees at 17 of its most popular sites next year (including Yellowstone, Shenandoah and Grand Canyon) to $70 from its current fee of $25-$30 seems to be a 180-degree turn from past NPS initiatives that aimed to increase diversity in national park visitors by ensuring that ALL Americans — young and old, rich and poor, black and white and every color in between — had access to our nation's parks.
With the possible increase in fees going into effect next year, these fee-free days may be more important than ever to those who want to visit America's national parks, monuments and historic sites. So mark those dates down and be sure to take advantage of the opportunity while you still can.