Plan Ahead: 17 Days of Free Entrance to National Parks in 2012

It costs at least $5 to enter Lassen Volcanic National Park

As an annual tradition, the U.S. Department of Interior has announced a number of days in 2012 when entrance fees to national parks and other public lands will be waived. The move is to encourage Americans to explore the country's beauty, history and culture while boosting tourism in communities supported by nearby parks.

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There will be 17 fee free days to National Park Service units:

  • January 14 to 16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend)
  • April 21 to 29 (National Park Week)
  • June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)
  • September 29 (National Public Lands Day)
  • November 10 to 12 (Veterans Day weekend)

It costs at least $5 to enter Lava Beds National MonumentCalifornia is home to 25 national park units, most which are free. 10 will waive fees, but take note that some year-round parks with free entrance still have costs associated with access. Boat and air transportation is needed to access Channel Islands National Park and shuttle rides to Devils Postpile National Monument start at $7 (unless you hike the steep Starkweather Trail both ways). Check before you go to understand all costs.

Additionally, entrance and standard amenity fees will be waived for eight days at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service:

  • January 14 to 16
  • June 9
  • September 29
  • November 10 to 12

And more fee free days will occur on October 14th on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands for National Wildlife Refuge Week and September 29th and November 12th at Bureau of Reclamation sites.

"One of the great things about a national park vacation is it can be as economical or luxurious as desired," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "A visit can be a few hours or several days. One could pack their lunch or eat at a snack bar, cafeteria, or gourmet dining room. One could sleep under the stars in the backcountry or stay in a campground, motel, or majestic lodge. There is something for everyone at each of the country's 395 national parks. So mark the dates, grab a friend or family member - especially one that has never been to a park before - and come visit one of your national parks."

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The photo of Lassen Volcanic National Park is by Flickr user Curtis Dalton Brown and used under a Creative Commons License. The photo of Lava Beds National Monument was by Flickr user j l t and used under a Creative Commons License.

About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCETLink's Editor-in-Chief of Blogs, where he oversees website editorial and advises on projects. When he does write, he mostly covers local government, environment, and the outdoors.
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