Take your big family to national parks for FREE.

New news about National Park Free Days and Programs for your family

Every Kid in a Park

A new program called “Every Kid in a Park” allows 4th graders and their entire families into any United States National Park, National Forest, or National Wildlife Refuge FOR FREE during the 2015 – 16 school year. The program starts September 1, 2015 and runs through August 31, 2016.

Sharing the beauty of nationally-protected lands with your family is a great way to create some memories, but it can be a little pricey. Besides the travel costs and lodging / camping fees, the parks with an admission fee allow your vehicle (even the big vans) into the park with a 7-day pass that usually costs around $30.

Grand Canyon National Park Vehicle Permit- $30.00 (U.S. Dollars)
Admits one single, private, non-commercial vehicle and all its passengers. Organized groups are not eligible for the vehicle permit.

Free is definitely cheaper than $30. So, if you’re planning on attending a park for Fall Break, over Christmas Break, or even in the upcoming Spring or Summer, and you’ve got a fourth grader, check out the details here on the National Parks site. (More specifics to be posted in early September.)


What if you don’t have a 4th grader?

The fees for entering a park definitely go to a worthy cause – maintenance, protection, education, etc. But for those of us on a tight budget, sometimes it’s really nice having the freebie opportunities. Besides the new program, here are some options for free admission into our National Parks:

  1. Our parks have Free Entrance Days from time to time. For instance, here are the 2015 dates:
    • January 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
    • February 14–16, Presidents Day weekend
    • April 18–19, opening weekend of National Park Week
    • August 25, National Park Service Birthday
    • September 26, National Public Lands Day
    • November 11, Veterans Day
  2. Can’t make it on those dates?
    • If you can’t visit a park on one of those days, consider traveling off the beaten path and visiting a lesser known park. Since only 127 of America’s 408 parks change an entrance fee, you can avoid the touristy crowds and save some cash by visiting a fee free park. Details

Park suggestions…


Lance and Sarah with family, 2006

  • The Smokies
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of our personal favorites. If you live remotely close to East Tennessee, you’ve probably made the trek (or wanted to) to Gatlinburg for a cabin rental and the fall. (Your podcast hosts have certainly done this before.) Don’t forget that the cabins and shops aren’t the most “outdoorsy” part of the trip, so if you visit Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge with your family, take advantage of the numerous trails and other adventurous activities.
  • Grand Canyon
    No intro needed here. It’s one of the most amazing sites in the world. Whether you visit specifically for the Canyon, or you’re looking for a big family activity near Las Vegas, Grand Canyon should be at the top of the list. From Vegas, it’s about a 4 hour car trip away. But if you’ve traveled far to make it to Vegas, the drive will be worth it.
  • Yellowstone / Grand Teton
    2-for-1! Yellowstone has the name recognition (and it is incredible), but the Tetons are about 10 miles away and offer some incredible views and hiking. Since they’re so close, if you visit one, definitely visit the other if you’ve got time.
    Although it usually costs $30 to enter each park separately, if you know you’re going to visit both buy a single vehicle pass for both parks for $50.
We’ll be talking about more big family events and activities on the podcast soon, but we wanted to go ahead and share this awesome news on our blog since the freebie offer starts soon.
In the meantime, listen to “Episode 13: Hit the Road Jack – The Travel Show” for a pretty relevant discussion.