The updated list of USA’s free national parks where you can explore nature’s wonders without paying entrance fees.

You won’t believe this – I searched on the internet for a proper list of these free national parks, and when I did not find an updated one, I thought, “Why not create one myself?” So, I put in an entire day, collecting info and writing this article. All for fellow budget travelers like us.

Did You Know? Among the 400+ park sites in the USA, only 63 have the coveted “National Park” tag in their names.

Pretty exclusive, huh?

From 63 national parks, there are only 23 parks where you can stroll in without shelling out a single buck, no matter what time of year it is. And I am not stopping at just the names. Nope, I am digging into what makes each park unique, and what cool stuff you can do there (both free and paid), and I will even spill the beans on passes that will save you some cash.

Ready to get this adventure started? Let’s do this!

If you are in a hurry and don’t have time to read the whole article then below is the list of 23 free national parks.

1. Biscayne National Park, Florida

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Let’s start with Biscayne National Park in Florida. Pristine white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters are a dream comes true for nature lovers like us. You can enter this paradise for free, any time of the year!

If camping is your thing, it’s just a $25 fee per night, covering two tents and up to six people.

Oh, a quick note: you can’t book a camping spot in advance.

So it’s first come, first served. No worries, though. We are spontaneous adventurers, right?

Now, about passes – while they don’t have senior or annual passes, they accept special America the Beautiful passes like the 4th-grade pass, Access pass, and U.S. military pass. You can use these passes here or grab them at nearby national parks.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Biscayne National Park.

Related: Exciting Outdoor Activities For Senior Citizens

2. Channel Islands National Park, California

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Have you heard about the amazing Channel Islands National Park in California?

It’s a paradise for nature lovers. You can enter for free, all year round! No entrance fees to worry about. You don’t need any fancy entrance pass to get in. Just pack up your gear and head over.

It’s that simple!

This park is part of the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. That means you and your pals can get in for free in your vehicle or with up to four adults at spots where there is usually a per-person fee.

They stopped selling federal land passes at Channel Islands National Park back in 2015. But no worries! If you are keen on snagging one, you can still grab them at other parks that do charge entrance fees.

The park offers camping options, but keep in mind that there might be additional fees for that. All the nitty-gritty details and how to reserve your spot can be found on the NSA website.

3. Congaree National Park, South Carolina

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Congaree National Park in South Carolina is one of those amazing free national parks where you don’t need any entrance pass or fees to explore its natural wonders and enjoy recreational activities.

If you are planning to visit other National Park Service sites that do charge fees, here is a cool tip to save some money: consider getting an interagency pass from here. It could be a great money-saver for your future adventures!

You will absolutely love Congaree National Park! It’s famous for its stunning old-growth forests and diverse wildlife.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Congaree National Park.

4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio is like a breath of fresh air away from the city buzz near Cleveland and Akron.

You can explore the historic Ohio & Erie Canal route! Just take a stroll or hop on a bike along the Towpath Trail. Getting into this natural paradise won’t cost you.

But wait, there is more! While they don’t ask for money at the gate, they are all about nature conservation. They encourage folks to support the park’s efforts by donating to the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

5. Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

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Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri is an awesome place that represents America’s expansion out west in the 19th century.

It’s like a tribute to pioneers and important folks like Thomas Jefferson and Dred Scott. It’s free to get in. No need to worry about entrance passes or anything.

You can explore the park’s grounds without paying. Tram or movie tickets usually come with a $3.00 fee to support the National Park Service, but if you have the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, that fee is lifted too.

Pretty sweet deal, huh?

You can also check out the Arch’s Museum and Visitor Center without spending a penny. But remember, there are some mandatory security checks, so plan to arrive a bit early, especially during the busy seasons.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Gateway Arch National Park.

6. Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska

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To explore the stunning beauty of the Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska, you won’t have to pay.

You can cruise down wild rivers, catch the incredible sight of caribou migrations, and soak in the magic as summer days blend into aurora-lit winter nights.

The gates of the Arctic National Park is different from other parks. All you need to do is swing by the visitor centers for a quick backcountry orientation. They will fill you in on important stuff like weather, safety tips, and how to be a nature-respecting explorer.

If you are planning a backcountry adventure, you can even borrow Bear Resistant Food Containers.

Safety first, right?

If you are rolling with a group, just make sure to check out the permit requirements and group size rules beforehand.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Gates of the Arctic National Park.

7. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

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Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska comes at #7 on our free national parks list. 

There’s so much to do. If you are into wildlife viewing, kayaking, camping, or just soaking in the stunning scenery, this place has it all for free!

But, if you plan to take advantage of commercial outfitters, guides, tour boats, or lodges, make sure you arrange reservations directly with them, okay?

The best part of Glacier Bay National Park – camping is also free.

If you are heading to the Bartlett Cove Primitive Campground, just make sure to attend a quick camper orientation at the Visitor Information Station, and you are all set!

But wait, if you want to camp or kayak in the backcountry overnight, you will need a free backcountry permit. No worries, it’s just a small formality.

Oh, one last thing. For filming or doing photography for commercial purposes, you might need a special use permit and pay some location fees.

But for regular visitors like us, no extra costs. Yay!

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Glacier Bay National Park.

8. Great Basin National Park, Nevada

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You can now enjoy the incredible beauty of Great Basin National Park in Nevada for absolutely free! Yep, no entrance fees to worry about.

Just remember, while getting into the park is free, some activities inside might come with a cost.

For example, if you are up for the Lehman Caves Tours – they are super popular – there is a fee per person.

So, if you are a nature lover on a budget, Great Basin National Park is your go-to spot.

Get additional information about fees, timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Great Basin National Park.

9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an incredible place that stretches across North Carolina and Tennessee, and you can enter it for free, any time of the year!

Starting from March 1, 2023, they have rolled out this new thing called a parking tag program. Basically, if your car is parked there for more than 15 minutes, you will need one of these tags. 

And you know what? The whole point of this program is to take care of the park’s roads and stuff.

You have got options for these tags. You can grab a daily one for just $5 if you are planning a quick visit, or go for the weekly tag at $15 if you are staying a bit longer. But, if you are a real park enthusiast, they have got an annual tag for $40 that is good for a whole year of adventures.

But here is the catch – once you get a tag, you can’t swap it out for a new one, get your money back, or give it to someone else.

Get additional information about tags, timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

10. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

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The amazing Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is a real gem among the free national parks in the USA.

You can explore this beauty without any entrance fees, anytime you want! Whether you are into breathtaking landscapes, the junior ranger program, or guided tours by rangers, it’s all there, and guess what – no fees at all!

Now, here is the deal – to enter the park, you don’t need to pay. But there is something interesting – you can get these special America the Beautiful Passes at the Fordyce Bathhouse.

And if you want to do camping, just remember, the Gulpha Gorge campground is amazing, but it does come with a fee of $34 per night. So, if you are planning to camp, make sure you reserve your spot in advance.

Trust me, this place is not only rich in history but also a total natural wonderland. Don’t miss out on this no-cost national park experience – you will love every bit of it! 

Get additional information about camping fees, timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Hot Springs National Park.

11. Katmai National Park, Alaska

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Katmai National Park in Alaska! This park was established back in 1918 after a volcanic eruption called Novarupta did its thing.

This park is like a guardian of not just history spanning 9,000 years, but also a haven for salmon and a bunch of those incredible, majestic brown bears.

Katmai National Park & Preserve doesn’t charge for entry! No need for an entrance pass. You can roll in and soak up the wild beauty of Katmai.

Trust me, the sights and wildlife are worth it.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Katmai National Park.

12. Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

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Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska allows you to explore stunning landscapes, vibrant wildlife, and jaw-dropping fjords without any cost.

This national park is a year-round wonderland just waiting for you. Think awe-inspiring glaciers, breathtaking coastal scenes, and an all-around natural paradise. If you are into nature and adventure, this is your dream spot.

Whether you are a hiker, wildlife fanatic, or simply someone who loves soaking in nature’s beauty, Kenai Fjords National Park is ready to amaze you without any entrance pass needed.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Kenai Fjords National Park.

13. Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Let me tell you about the incredible Kobuk Valley National Park up in Alaska. If you are traveling alone, no need to reserve anything – just pack your bags and head over. But if you are with a group, it’s a good idea to chat with the chief ranger to sort out some permits.

Keep in mind, though, that reaching this untouched paradise usually involves taking a flight. The costs can vary depending on where you want to go within the park, so it’s good to plan ahead.

Don’t let entrance fees hold you back from embracing the wild beauty of Kobuk Valley National Park. Trust me, it’s a journey worth taking.

Get additional information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Kobuk Valley National Park.

14. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

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Lake Clark National Park & Preserve in Alaska is like a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

You can visit the park any time of the year without anything. No entrance fees, no worries.

Whether you are into hiking, camping, checking out the rivers, watching bears, or even checking out Dick Proenneke’s famous cabin, you can do it all without having to fork over any cash or deal with permits from the National Park Service. It’s a total win-win situation.

Just a little heads-up: if you want to stay in one of the public-use cabins at the park, there are some fees involved, and you will need to make a reservation. But for everything else, it’s smooth sailing and free as a bird.

Get additional information about timing, maps, public-use cabins, and alerts on the official website of Lake Clark National Park.

Related: 35 Must Have Hiking Gear List for Epic Adventure

15. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

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Ever heard of Mammoth Cave National Park?

It’s one of the awesome free national parks. Just remember, even though the entrance is free, some cool activities like cave tours, camping, and renting shelters might cost you a bit.

Those fees actually help make the park even more amazing. They fund projects that make your visit even better and improve the whole park experience.

The cave tours here are a must-try. But hey, here is a tip: it’s smart to book your cave tour in advance. The fees for these tours can vary depending on what type of tour you are into and how long it lasts.

Guess what?

Mammoth Cave also has special days where you can enjoy certain cave tours for absolutely zero bucks. Yup, totally free! I will talk about these at the end of the article.

If you are curious about all the details – you know, the fees, the tours, and everything – just check out the official website of Mammoth Cave National Park. You will find all the scoop you need there.

16. National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

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National Park of American Samoa is place is seriously amazing, nestled right in the heart of the South Pacific. American Samoa is a part of the United States!

This park is a gem that captures the true spirit of the islands. Think about it – pristine landscapes, the friendliest local folks you will ever meet, and a vibe that’s just so unique.

But that’s not all. This park isn’t just about pretty views. It’s also about preserving the awesome history and the environment. They are all about keeping the good stuff intact for generations to come.

There is no entrance fee. So, you can embark on this incredible journey of exploration without worrying about entry fees and passes.

Know more about it on the official website of the National Park of American Samoa.

17. New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

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Gigantic cliffs and the New River cut through ancient rock formations. It’s like a painting that came to life, perfect for outdoor fun.

And the best part? It’s a place for everyone, no passes are needed!

As you hike through the wild trails and watch the sun dip behind the deep gorge, you will be swept away by nature’s beauty.

Get More information about timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of New River Gorge National Park.

18. North Cascades National Park, Washington

north cascades national park

North Cascades National Park in Washington is an awesome free national park you should check out!

No need for an entrance pass here. But here is the deal: watch out for parking and transportation fees – those might still pop up.

And camping?

Oh yes, they have got that too. Camping fees range around $24, depending on where and when you pitch your tent.

But wait, there is a little twist. If you are all set to hit the trails from the nearby U.S. Forest Service land, you might need a Northwest Forest Pass. Just a heads-up on that.

Get More information about camping, timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of North Cascades National Park.

19. Redwood National Park, California

redwood national park

Wander through the captivating beauty of Redwood National Park without paying any entrance fees.

Here is a cool tip: if you are planning to explore a bunch of different parks, think about getting an interagency pass. It could save you some bucks.

Those ancient trees at Redwood National Park are waiting for you, and they won’t cost you a thing!

Visit the official website of Redwood National Park for Further information.

20. Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands

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You can explore the Virgin Islands National Park for free! Yep, you heard me right.

While you can get into most parts of the park without paying a cent, there is this incredible spot called Trunk Bay that is a must-see. They do charge a little something – a $5.00 fee for folks aged 16 and up. It’s worth it, though. Trust me, Trunk Bay is absolutely breathtaking.

Here is something to keep in mind. That $5.00 fee for Trunk Bay?

Well, it doesn’t budge on those “Fee Free Days (will talk about these days in the end)” So, plan accordingly if you are aiming for a budget-friendly trip.

If you are thinking of spending the night on your boat, there is a mooring fee. But don’t sweat it; the cost depends on your age and the type of pass you have. Seniors and certain pass holders might catch a break here.

And wait, there is more! If you qualify, there are these special passes up for grabs. Like, there is this Interagency Access Pass for folks with disabilities – that one is a game-changer.

There is even an Annual Fourth Grade Pass for US students. With that, fourth graders can explore for free! Plus, there are a bunch of other passes you can snag at the fee booth at Trunk Bay or the Cruz Bay Visitor Center.

Get more information at the official website of Virgin Islands National Park.

21. Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

voyageurs national park

If you are into exploring stunning national parks without breaking the bank, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is your jam.

It’s a fantastic option for soaking in all that natural beauty without worrying about extra costs.

Hold up, though. While getting in is free, certain activities like camping, houseboat permits, tour boats, and special use permits might come with fees.

But don’t stress!

Those fees go towards making sure the park’s facilities are top-notch for visitors like us. And get this – they are part of the Federal Recreation Lands Enhancement Act, which means a chunk of the money collected goes right back into improving the park.

Oh, and here is a tip: America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Series. This magic pass gets you into a bunch of federal recreation areas across the U.S. It covers entrance fees and standard amenity fees at different sites.

Before you head out, check the details and pass options for each place. It’s a slick way to save some bucks while having a blast exploring our national parks.

Here is the link to the official website of Voyageurs National Park.

22. Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

wind cave national park

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota is a real treat because it lets you enjoy its fantastic trails, scenic drives, and even a super informative visitor center—all for free!

Keep in mind that if you are interested in exploring the awe-inspiring caves, there are some fees involved. Cave tours are a highlight of this park, but they come with their separate charges. Unfortunately, those charges are not covered by the Federal Interagency Passes.

And if you are thinking about spending the night under the stars at Elk Mountain Campground, the camping fee is $24.00 per site per night.

But here is a cool thing: if you are a Senior or Access Pass holder, you can get discounts! Saving some bucks while enjoying nature?

A helpful tip: if you are super excited to take a cave tour (who wouldn’t be?), making advanced reservations is smart. Those tours tend to fill up fast but don’t worry, they do have a portion of tickets available for same-day purchase.

Get More information about cave reservations, cave tour fees, timing, maps, and alerts on the official website of Wind Cave National Park.

23. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

Elias National Park in Alaska is the last free national park on our list.

This place is massive and has stunning views. You can check it out by taking a ride on Nabesna Road or McCarthy Road.

Just a heads up though, even though you don’t have to pay to get in, some things like parking, shuttles, and camping at certain spots might need a fee because they are run by private businesses.

Nature and budget-friendly? This park’s got it all.

Want to know more about it? Visit the official website of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

So, we have got this awesome list of free national parks. Our list is complete now.

But hold on, there is more cool stuff for travelers on a budget.

Also Read: How to Travel Cheaply in the USA

Free National Parks Entrance Days:

If you are thinking about visiting other national parks or federal recreation spots.

Mark your calendar for these five days in 2023 when you can stroll into any national park without paying a cent. Yes, I am talking about all the national parks of the USA.

Here are the free national park days:

  1. January 17th – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  2. April 16th – The first day of Free National Park Week
  3. August 4th – Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  4. September 24th – National Public Lands Day
  5. November 11th – Veterans Day

Next year, I will make sure to give you the updated dates.

National Park Passes:

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Now, let’s talk about passes.

Below are the types of national park passes we talked about in this article:

  • Annual Pass
  • Military Annual Pass
  • Military Lifetime Pass
  • 4th Grade Pass
  • Senior Pass
  • Access Pass
  • Volunteer Pass

Oh, and there is one more!

There is this super cool pass series called the “America the Beautiful Pass Series.” Check out the NPS website here. They have put all information about the fees, who are eligible, and all that.

Related: Best Places to Travel Alone In USA

Wrap up

Well, we have come to the end of our article about the 23 Free National Parks in the USA.

From the stunning landscapes of Alaska to the lush forests of Kentucky, these parks boast natural beauty and rich history. And the best part? All of this awesomeness comes to you absolutely free.

So, what is holding you back? Dust off that hiking gear, pack your backpack and get ready for adventures in these national treasures.

But now, I want to listen from you.

Have you had the chance to explore any of these free national parks?

Which one has your inner adventurer leaping for joy?

Don’t keep me hanging – drop a comment below and let’s chat!


Timantha Voyager is a well-traveled writer with numerous stories to share. Having visited many places, she has gained insights into various cultures and skillfully brings those adventures to life in her writing. Timantha is renowned for her practical tips and relatable stories, making her a go-to guide for both travel enthusiasts and aspiring writers. Her genuine commitment to real experiences establishes her as a respected voice in the world of exploration and discovery.

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