Finances & Money Frugality

Visit a National Park for Free

Last weekend, we had friends in town and we all decided to take a little hike through a local federal park (Great Falls Park). We were expecting to pay the $5 fee at the gate for the carload, but when we pulled up, the park ranger said “Today is free”. While it was only $5 for all 4 of us (plus a baby), we were pleasantly surprised.

While I’ve heard about the “U.S. National Park Service Fee-Free Weekends” before, I didn’t even think to check if that weekend would be one.

While you may have missed this most recent free weekend, you still have one more coming up this summer:

  • June 20-21, 2009 (Father’s Day weekend)
  • July 18-19, 2009
  • August 15-16, 2009

I would highly suggest that you get to the park very early to avoid crowds. Summer time is peak season for crowds as it is, and throwing in free admission just compounds the problem. We got to the park by about 9am and had no problem with parking or busy hiking paths (except a few groups of high-intensity hikers flying past us). But when we left around 11:30am, the parking lot was almost full and the entrance was swarming with hikers and picnickers.

Want to find a park near you? You can search for participating parks by state.

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Clever Dude


  • Great information. I made plans to hit a local national park during the August 15th weekend. It’ll be a nice way to spend a summer day that doesn’t bust, let alone stretch, the budget.

  • Another great National Park “Program” is their pass for seniors. If you are over 62 for a one time $10 you and your car gain entrance for life at all parks.

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