In 2020, with international travel mostly on pause, Americans flocked to national parks. According to National Park Service data, Yellowstone National Park saw record numbers with a 20 percent increase in visits in September 2020 compared to 2019. As of November, its total 2020 numbers are down just 5 percent compared to 2019. Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California also had a banner summer that’s continued into the fall, with 39 percent more visits in November than the same month in 2019. While overall visitor numbers are still down across most parks, the trend of discovering America’s natural wonders—and in many cases, our own backyards—seems primed to continue well into 2021.
Luckily, the NPS is continuing its own traditions, offering six free days for visitors across all 108 national parks, monuments, historic sites, and preserves that usually charge a fee, like Yellowstone, Saguaro National Park, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. For 2021, that means it’s free to visit all parks on these dates:
New to the list of free days is August 4, which will mark the one year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, which designated $9.5 billion to the National Park Service and other federal agencies to spend on land maintenance over the next five years. It also permanently funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund—and is in jeopardy already due to lapsed deadlines, according to Outside.
On August 4 and the other free days, which include Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veterans Day, the entrance fee to parks that charge them is waived (usually around $35 per car). You’ll still have to pay activity and amenity fees for things like camping, in-park transportation, and boat launches.
While the parks with fees are among the most visited—think Grand Canyon, Olympic, and Acadia national parks—there are plenty of parks, historic sites, and more that are entrance fee–free year round. We’re fans of entrance fee-less Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota for its stargazing and water sports; Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which had seen nearly 14.9 million visitors by September 2020; and Redwood National Park, which offers not only free entry, but free backcountry camping as well.
If you’re planning multiple national park adventures next year outside of the aforementioned free days, consider an America the Beautiful pass, which costs just $80 and covers all entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges, plus standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, for an entire car (up to four adults) for a whole year. Veterans and seniors can get discounted passes, too. The pass makes a great gift for any avid traveler.
More Inspiration from Condé Nast Traveler:
21 Best Places to Go in 2021
The 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America
Strange Facts About the U.S.
50 Things to Do in Europe At Least Once in a Lifetime
The Most Beautiful Places in the World
The Best Travel Movies of All Time
Source: Read Full Article