2020 is the year of spending less and doing more, am I right?! One of my travel resolutions was to visit more national parks following my phenomenal trip to Glacier National Park last August. Well, it looks like that resolution just got a lot easier.
The National Park Service just released their 2020 list of fee-free entrance days. For five days this year, all National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission… to everyone!
Here are the dates to mark on your calendar…
How to Visit National Parks for Free
2020 Fee-Free National Park Entrance Days
- January 20: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- April 18: First day of National Park Week
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 26: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
Awesome on it’s own, right? Let’s plan a bit further though. I did some digging, and here are my recs for which park you should visit during that month.
January: Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
This is most definitely a bucket list item for me. You can only access this park by plane or ferry, but after visiting Corcovado (which has the same accessibility barriers), that’s no sweat. If you’re into snorkeling/diving, you’re gonna love those beautiful clear blue waters. If you love history (raise hand), you’ll love the unfinished 19th century Fort Jefferson.
April: Yosemite National Park, California
Also a bucket list item. I can’t help it. Late April is an excellent time to visit, because the dogwood blossoms will be in their fullest glory. That, plus the likelihood for fantastic waterfalls with the April showers, would make for a very photogenic trip.
August: Glacier National Park, Montana
I’m biased, since I visited in August and nearly fell over cause it’s just that pretty. Montana as a whole just absolutely enchanted me. Imagine the culture shock of this born and raised Kansas gal (Kansas = endless flat lands) visiting a state whose name translates to “mountain.” It’s awesome.
August is an excellent time to go, too. Wildfire risk is minimized and the weather is clear, bright and pleasant.
September: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Ah, Yellowstone. I so want to make a trip to this picturesque park happen this year. Imagine how beautiful it’ll look in the fall. Not to mention that you’ll have just passed the peak season, but still get decent weather. So you’ll avoid crowds, but won’t have to deal with the endless snow that tends to blanket Wyoming.
November: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
You might miss the fall colors at their peak (late October is likely your best bet), but early winter is still a great time to see and experience the stillness of a national park. In the winter following a snow fall, you can more easily spot animal tracks. Not to mention the season is great for spotting deer, squirrels, turkeys, foxes and bobcats.
How to Stay Near a National Park for Free
That’s right, I’m also gonna share a quick tip on how to stay near a national park for free. Depending on your location, this may reduce your costs to gas and food (roadtrip!).
Couchsurfing is a service where a local will offer you their couch (it’s not always a couch, but you get it) and in exchange, you both will get a cultural perspective. It’s completely free to crash with your host, as the idea is you both grow richer through a shared travel experience.
I did a cursory search for the dates listed above, and found hosts nearby each national park I’ve mentioned. One caveat, you can’t stay at Dry Tortugas, so I’d recommend crashing in Key West.
I hope this helps you plan an awesome national parks adventure on a budget! Comment below and let me know if you’re traveling to any national park this year!
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