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ATLANTA — National parks in the United States proved to be wildly popular in 2021. They set various attendance records with a pandemic-fatigued public looking for safe things to do.
And now the U.S. National Park Service has an offer in 2022 for an inflation-shocked public as well: Five days when the entrance fees are waived at every park in the country.
The first one is coming up on Monday, Jan. 17, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The winter storm system that has swept parts of the United States has closed some places, including parts of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee.
You can check this link for other possible closures anytime before you head out for a trip.
Meanwhile, the NPS is encouraging people to visit Death Valley National Park in California.
"January is a great month to visit Death Valley," said James Woolsey, acting superintendent, in a news release. "The low-angle winter sunlight makes the contours of the sand dunes and mountains more photogenic."
Other free days this year
Can't make it for MLK Day? The other four free entrance dates are scattered throughout the seasons and the calendar:
- Saturday, April 16: First day of National Park Week
- Thursday, Aug. 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- Saturday, Sept. 24: National Public Lands Day
- Friday, Nov. 11: Veterans Day
"Whether on an entrance fee-free day or throughout the year, we encourage everyone to discover their national parks and the benefits that come from spending time outdoors," National Park Service Director Chuck Sams said in a news release.
The entrance fee waiver won't cover fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.
Given how popular the parks were in 2021, it might be a good idea to plan early, arrive early and check online for potential timed entries on the free days, especially at the most popular parks.
Many parks are free all year
NPS said that most national parks do not have entrance fees at all. Out of more than 400 national parks, about 110 have admission fees that range from $5 to $35.
Of course, like anything else, it's the big names that command the money: Yellowstone in Wyoming (and bits of Montana and Idaho), Yosemite in California, Denali in Alaska and Everglades in Florida, to name four.
You can see a full list of the parks that usually charge a fee here.
And some groups of people can also get in free all year with annual passes:
- U.S. military members and their dependents, U.S. veterans and Gold Star families
- Fourth grade students
- Eligible NPS volunteers
Finally, U.S. citizens with a permanent disability can get a free lifetime pass.