Shenandoah National Park

Sunset lights up Skyline Drive's Timber Hollow Overlook in Shenandoah National Park. 

One of the terrific things about the National Park Service, aside from its duty to serve as the caretaker of America’s greatest outdoor spaces, is the annual designation of five days during the course of the year that are free to the public.

Those five days have been announced for 2020.

  • Jan. 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day;
  • April 18: First day of National Park Week (a weeklong celebration of all parks);
  • Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday;
  • Sept. 26: National Public Lands Day;
  • Nov. 11: Veterans Day.

On those five days, you can visit any national park across the country without paying an entrance fee.

Full disclosure—three-quarters of America’s national parks are already free, according to Travel+Leisure. Of the 419 National Parks, 308 do not require an entrance fee.

That said, the remaining 111 are among the most popular and most visited—think Yosemite National Park—and charge anywhere from $5 per car to $35 per vehicle as an entrance fee.

Travel+Leisure also noted that the 111 parks that do charge fees use that money to benefit the parks themselves—80 percent of the money stays with the park where you paid the fee, and 20 percent goes to the other 308 parks that do not charge an entrance fee.

The magazine also noted that if you plan to visit several national parks, consider getting the America the Beautiful pass for $80. The pass allows you to visit hundreds of national parks and federal recreational lands for a year without paying entrance fees.

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