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Veterans are now free at national parks, plus 2021 free days

Last updated on December 9th, 2020 at 09:46 pm

Entry prices at national parks have risen, but so have opportunities for Americans to gain free admission.

On Veteran’s Day 2020, veterans gained permanent free admission to the national parks.

Fourth grade students and their families get free admission as part of the “Every Kids Outdoors” program. Because travel was so restricted for 2020, fifth graders will also gain free admission through Aug. 31, 2021.

Traditionally, there have been five free days at national parks (listed below.) In 2021, a sixth free day will be added: Aug. 4, the day in 2020 that the Great American Outdoors Act was signed, giving the national parks up to $1.9 billion a year for five years to provide needed maintenance of infrastructure.

2021 free days in national parks

Date Event Agency Participating
Jan. 18, 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Day National Park Service
Fish & Wildlife Service
Bureau of Land Management
U.S, Forest Service
April 17, 2021 First day of National Park Week National Park Service
Aug. 4, 2021 Great American Outdoors Act day National Park Service
Aug. 25, 2021 National Park Service anniversary National Park Service
Sept. 25, 2021 National Public Lands Day National Park Service
Fish & Wildlife Service
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
US Forest Service
Nov. 11, 2021 Veterans Day National Park Service
Fish & Wildlife Service
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Reclamation
US Forest Service
Florida State Parks

Free days in national parks are offered here:

Free days in Florida state parks:

Sept. 8 – International Literacy Day – Admission is waived for anyone who has a library card, a book checked out from the library or donates a new or gently used, family-friendly book at any state park.

Nov. 11 – Veteran’s Day

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

How veterans can get free admission to national parks

U.S. military veterans and Gold Star Families get free admission to national parks plus wildlife refuges and other sites managed by the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Only admission is free, not activities such as camping, tours or special recreation permits.

Veterans include those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces or the National Guard and Reserves. One of these forms of ID is required when entering a national park:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

Free admission extends to travel companions in the same single, private non-commercial vehicle OR the veteran or voucher-holder and three persons (16 and older).

Gold Star families must download a voucher and certify they qualify.

Current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents can enter national parks for free with a Military Pass through the America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program.

Passes may be a good deal, especially for seniors

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks, for one year. It costs $80 a year. Here’s more information.

The version of that pass for seniors 62 or older, however, is good for the rest of your life, so the best way to celebrate your 62nd birthday is to order one of these $80 passes. Here are details.

It pays to note free days at national parks

Over the last several years, fees at national parks have steadily risen to raise money for deferred maintenance. In many parks, admission now covers seven days, but that is not much help to the day-tripper or someone on a weekend getaway.

As a result, budget-minded travelers are wise to take advantage of free days in national parks.


  • Everglades National Park entrance fee is $35 per vehicle for seven days. The individual entrance fee is $20. (Note: Everglades National Park entrance is also free if you use the free trolley from Homestead on winter weekends and between Christmas and New Years.)
  • Admission to spectacular Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville is $20 per car. (Good for seven days.)
  • It’s $25 per car to go to the beautiful beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle. (Good for seven days.)

Where does national park entrance fee money go?

About 80 percent of collected fees at a national park stay in that park, while the other 20 percent support National Park Service units that do not charge fees, such as Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Of that 80 percent, at least 55 percent of the fees must be used to fund deferred maintenance projects in the park. Everglades National Park has plans over the next few years to improve visitor facilities and services, according to Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos.

Some of the fee-funded projects at Everglades National Park include replacing channel markers and improving channel corridors in Florida Bay and the backcountry, bringing back accommodations and a restaurant in Flamingo  and reconstructing the Flamingo Visitor Center. Here’s more about visiting Flamingo.

Wildlife refuges where fees are waived on some free days:

There are never any entrance fees to these parks:

Related articles on Florida Rambler:


A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

This article is the property of and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.

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Thursday 19th of November 2020

Thank you for this post! I was not aware of Veterans now having free admission to National Parks! Semper Fi.

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