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US National Parks are free to visit this Saturday – here's what you need to know

Sunset from Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park
(Image credit: John Baggaley)

All US National Parks are free to enter on Saturday September 24 to celebrate National Public Lands Day. The day is a celebration of the connection between people and green space, and encourages the use of nature for education, recreation, and health benefits.

Many of the 400+ National Parks in the US are free to enter at all times, but on Saturday all the rest will be waiving their fees, including Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Zion to make just a few (check out the full list of all parks participating (opens in new tab)).

This doesn't include additional fees for camping, special tours, boat launches, or transport, but it's a great opportunity to take a daytrip and immerse yourself in nature. If you're not sure where to head, we've got some suggestions.

National Parks for families

Yosemite is one of the best National Parks for exploring with a family thanks to its great infrastructure, which includes smooth paved routes for walking, free shuttle buses, and plenty of shops and restaurants. It's also stunningly beautiful.

Rocky Mountain is also particularly accessible for visitors of all ages, with plenty of flat trails for easy hiking. Make sure you pack your best binoculars too, because we're in the middle of the elk rut, when these majestic animals are at their most impressive.

Carlsbad Caverns is fantastic for kids, who'll love exploring the limestone caves full of stalactites and stalagmites. Above ground, there are excellent hiking trails to enjoy.

See our full list of the best National Parks for families.

The Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Kids love exploring the limestone caves at Carlsbad Caverns (Image credit: Doug Meek)

National Parks for dogs

If you want to go exploring with your four-legged friend, Acadia National Park in Maine is a great option. Pets are allowed on carriage roads, most trails, and on Isle au Haut for day hiking. Take your good boy or girl on a fun expedition from salty sea to roaring summits.

Olympic National Park in Washington offers incredibly diverse landscapes, and many of its best hiking trails are dog-friendly, including the Peabody Creek, Madison Falls, and July Creek Loop trails.

At Grand Canyon National Park, leashed dogs are permitted on trails above the South Rim, giving you both some spectacular views to enjoy.

See our full list of the best National Parks for dogs

Fall Colors from South Shore Road Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park welcomes dogs, and offers spectacular scenery (Image credit: undefined undefined)

National Parks for wildlife viewing

Yellowstone is home to a huge variety of wildlife, and if you visit on Saturday you might well spot male elk and bison competing for dominance and female attention during the rut. Just make sure you give them plenty of space and enjoy them from at least 25 yards (23 meters) away.

Everglades National Park is also a haven for wildlife that's free to enter on Saturday. Crocodiles, manatees, alligators, and snapping turtles all call the park home.

Glacier National Park is another excellent place to visit if you want to catch sight of elk and bison in the early fall, and it you come armed with binoculars you might also be able to enjoy watching bears and mountain lions. Keep an eye out for moose and mountain goats, too.

See our full list of the best National Parks for wildlife viewing

Cat Ellis
Editor

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).