You can visit any national park for free on Sept. 28


The only thing better than visiting our nation’s beautiful national parks is visiting them for free. And on National Public Lands Day, coming up on Sept. 28, you can do just that.

a view of a canyon with Zion National Park in the background

The National Park Service has designated five fee-free events in 2019 for all national parks across the U.S. — that’s 418 total to choose from Maine to Alaska and Hawaii. Admission rates vary from park to park, but can reach up to $20 per person or $30 per vehicle, not including parking permits. So these free-admission dates provide a great opportunity to save on a visit to one of the country’s most picturesque places.

National Park Week has been happening every year since 1991, when it was introduced to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National Park Service. The establishment of the first national park, Yosemite, in 1890 can be traced back more than 150 years ago, when President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, setting aside land for preservation and public use.

a river running through a forest: Yosemite National Park (Photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash)

Of the country’s 418 National Parks, 112 charge entry fees ranging from $3 to $20 per person or $30 per car. To save the most on a national parks getaway, you might want to spend September 28 in one of the nation’s most expensive parks, all of which charge $20 per person or $30 per vehicle for entrance: Bryce Canyon National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park.

“National Park Week is a great time to explore parks near you, and free admission days are always popular,” Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, told The Points Guy. “Step one is to find your park. Visit FindYourPark.com (or EncuentraTuParque.com) for ideas on nearby parks to visit. I also recommend giving the national park’s visitor center a call before you arrive to find out if they have special activities planned, what areas are best for avoiding crowds and any tips on parking or public transit options for getting to the park.”

a group of palm trees with Joshua Tree National Park in the background: Joshua Tree National Park (Photo by Owen Rupp on Unsplash)

Use points to stay near a national park

In addition to enjoying free entry to the national parks, you can make the entire trip budget-friendly by using points to stay in the park, or nearby. (Just keep in mind that some parks will draw serious crowds on a fee-free day, so go as early in the day as you can.) Here are a few examples of how hotel points can compliment a national parks trip.

Moab, Utah

Located near Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, Moab offers several points-friendly lodging options:

  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Moab from 50,000 Hilton points (here’s how to earn more Hilton points)
  • Hampton Inn Moab from 50,000 Hilton points
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Moab from 40,000 IHG Rewards points
  • Fairfield Inn and Suites and SpringHill Suites Moab from 50,000 Marriott points

Springdale, Utah

The town of Springdale is just outside Zion National Park, and has a number of chain hotels where travelers can redeem points without sacrificing location. The aptly-named Holiday Inn Express Springdale – Zion National Park Area, for example, is available from 40,000 IHG points a night and is one of the best-rated hotels in the area. It could be a great use of the free night certificate awarded every anniversary from the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.  Other great points properties include:

  • Hampton Inn and Suites Springdale / Zion National Park from 50,000 Hilton points
  • SpringHill Suites Springdale Zion National Park from 50,000 Marriott points (or use a 50,000 point Marriott Bonvoy certificate)

a house with a mountain in the background: Image courtesy of Holiday Inn Express Springdale

Grand Tetons

Jackson Hole is itself a destination, but is also serves as a great home base when visiting the Grand Tetons. Some of the best points properties in the area are:

  • SpringHill Suites Jackson Hole from 35,000 Marriott points per night (or you could use an annual 35,000-point Marriott Rewards certificate)
  • Hampton Inn Jackson Hole from 60,000 Hilton points per night

Don’t stress if you miss the free national parks admission day, as TPG has tips to help you save money on national parks visits all throughout the year. There’s also one final free day left in 2019, on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. We also have kid-specific tips in case you are making a family affair out of your next national parks adventure.

Featured photo of Zion National Park by Rich Martello on Unsplash.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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