Now that 2013 is officially upon us, it is time to start planning our outdoor adventures for the year ahead. Recently, the National Park Service made that process a bit easier by officially announcing its fee-free days for the next 12 months. The fee-free program has become incredibly popular over the past few years, as on those select days all entry fees for every national park in the U.S. system is waived, allowing anyone access to those amazing natural landscapes without charge.
For this year, the NPS has declared that there will be 13 fee-free days in total, beginning with Martin Luther King Jr. Day in just a few weeks time. The rest of the days are spread out throughout the year, giving us all ample opportunity to take advantage of the program. On each of those days more than 2000 national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other federal lands will allow anyone who visits to enter absolutely free.
The complete list of fee-free days for 2013 is as follows:
- January 21 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 22-26 – National Parks Week
- June 8 – Great Outdoors Day
- August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
- September 28 – National Public Lands Day
- October 13 – National Wildlife Refuge Day
- November 9 -11 – Veteran’s Day Weekend
So, if there is a national park that you’ve been putting off visiting, perhaps this is the year to finally make that trip a reality. I’m particularly partial to Yellowstone and Yosemite of course, but both of those parks can be quite crowded during the peak season. If you’re looking for a truly wild escape, far from the typical tourist crowds, add Big Bend, Katmai or Isle Royale to your list. For an amazing family vacation, you simply can’t go wrong with the Great Smokey Mountains, the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Parks. Each is an amazing destination that offers plenty to visitors of all ages, including great hiking, breathtaking scenery and fantastic wildlife.
For a complete list of parks that will be participating in the fee-free days, click here. The list is organized alphabetically by state and provides a host of suggestions on places to visit anytime of the year. You may even discover a few new parks that you’ve never heard of, giving you new options for future travels as well.
By Kraig Becker