Since the founding of the very first national park, Yellowstone, in 1872, more than 400 other national parks, monuments, battlefields, and other types of sites have joined the list. Some sites hold historic or cultural significance. Others are home to unique landscapes and natural habitats. The national park designation helps to preserve them.

Some national parks do not charge an entrance fee. But many do. This fee goes towards the maintenance, upkeep, and preservation of this park. Of the fees charged at each park, 80 percent stays within that park.

All five of Utah’s Mighty 5 national parks charge an entrance fee. They range from $20 to $35 for a vehicle with up to 15 people. This might sound pricey for a couple or a family of four. But the pass actually gets you access to the park for seven consecutive days!

If you’re looking to save a little money during your next visit to Water Canyon Resort and have some flexibility in when you travel, you’re in luck. The National Park Service has announced five days when all entrance fees will be waived!

Planning to visit a national park or two during your stay at Southern Utah hotels? Keep reading to learn how to visit for free in 2023, or how to save on a visit any time of year.

2023 National Park Free Entrance Days

Each year, the National Park Service announces a few days when entrance fees are waived at all National Park Service sites. This includes national parks, including Zion National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, as well as other types of National Park Service sites, like national landmarks, monuments, historic sites, and battlefields.

The days chosen by the National Park Service either have a connection to national parks and other sites or are a national holidays.

In 2023, the National Park Service announced five Free Entrance Days. One has already passed; January 16, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. If you missed this opportunity to visit a national park for free, don’t fret; you still have four more chances this year! The remaining four Free Entrance Days are:

  • April 22: The first day of National Park Week
  • August 4: The anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

On these dates, entrance fees for all national parks and other National Park Service sites are waived. However, amenity and activity fees, like fees for camping, transportation, or tours, are still charged at the normal rate.

Are You Eligible for a Free National Park Annual Pass?

For some individuals, these Free Entrance Days aren’t the only time that you can access a national park for free. The National Park Service offers several of its Annual Passes free of charge. 

Military Annual Passes

One is the Military Annual Pass. The pass is available free of charge for current U.S. military members and their dependents. This includes Reserve and National Guard Members. The pass is eligible for one year but can be renewed as long as the cardholder remains in military service. 

Gold Star Families with a valid Gold Star Family Voucher, as well as U.S. military veterans with a valid veteran ID, can get a free Military Lifetime Pass. This pass does not need to be renewed annually.

4th Grade Annual Pass

Fourth-grade students in the U.S., including home-schooled and free-choice learners who are 10 years of age, can get a free 4th Grade Pass. This pass is eligible during the student’s 4th-grade year, running from September to the following August. Like any national park pass, this pass can get the cardholder (student) into any national park site, along with up to three guests.

Access and Volunteer Passes

The Access Pass is a free lifetime pass available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents with a permanent disability. The final group of individuals who are eligible for a free annual pass are volunteers who have completed 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program. You can learn more about those passes here.

You can obtain each of these passes at most federal recreation sites, as well as online. If you choose to get your pass online, you will need to pay processing and shipping fees. 

America the Beautiful Pass

If you aren’t eligible for a free Annual Pass, you can still purchase one! The America the Beautiful pass costs just $80 for one year and provides free access to all national park sites for two cardholders and up to three guests, or a carload of fewer than 15 people. Discounts are available for individuals age 62 or older.

Planning Your Next Stay at Southern Utah Hotels

Planning a visit to Southern Utah hotels like Water Canyon Resort around one of these Free Entrance Days might help you save a few bucks on your next visit. But if you plan to visit a national park for more than one day, or multiple national parks during your stay, purchasing an annual pass might be the better choice.

Looking for a different way to save some money on your next vacation? Right now, when you book a stay of two or more nights at our Utah resort before March 15, you’ll enjoy a 25 percent discount on your entire booking! Book today to take advantage of this amazing deal!