How to Save Money in National Parks

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I have a collection full of maps from each national park that I have visited over the years. When I look at the maps all lined up, I see incredible memories and experiences in the great outdoors. Travel certainly isn’t cheap these days and even a short visit to a national park can come with a considerable price tag. If you want to learn how you can some money in the national parks, I’ve got you covered! From park fees to experiences, here’s everything you need to know! 

What are ways to save money in national parks?

 If you want to learn how you can some money in the national parks, I’ve got you covered! From park fees to passes, here’s everything you need to know!

How many national parks are there?

The United States is home to 423 national parks, all located in the United States. Combined, they make up more than 84 million acres of land with parks in each state and going into territories, such as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and more.

Best View of Grand Prismatic Spring Yellowstone

How much does it cost to get into a national park?

You will pay admission fees whenever you visit most national parks. These fees are not overly pricey, for example a 7-day pass can cost you just $25-35 for a carload of people. Entrance fees are charged by vehicle, not by the individual. This fee is also only applicable at certain parks, typically the most popular parks, such as Rocky Mountain and the Grand Canyon. 

National Parks Pass Options

There are a few different pass options available to the public. But the most popular ones that you can take advantage of are:

Annual pass: $80

  • Available for: everyone
  • How to purchase: in person, online, by phone

Military pass: FREE

  • Available for: Current US military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force, as well as Reserve and National Guard members, US military veterans, Gold Star Family members
  • How to purchase: in person, online, by phone

4th Grade Pass: $80

  • Available for: 4th graders during the school year through the following summer (Sept-Aug)
  • How to obtain: Get more information here.

Senior pass: $20/$80

  • Available for: US citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over.
  • How to purchase: in person, online, by phone

Check out the National Parks website for more information and other pass options.

Lake Yellowstone Sunset

2022 Dates When You Can Visit National Parks for Free

There are a handful of days when you can get into any national park for free. In 2022, there are five days which you can go to any of the 423 parks for free, including national parks. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, try planning your trip during one of these dates.

More Ways to Save on a National Parks Visit

While the above tips are all great ways to save on national park admission and passes, there are even more ways to save on your visit.

Here are some of our faves:

  • Camp (RV or tent) in a park versus a lodge or hotel stay.
  • If visiting for the day, pack plenty of food and drinks so that you don’t have to purchase from in-park restaurants.
  • Off-season (if the park is open) tours are sometimes cheaper than peak season. Travel during off season can also nab you cheaper airfare and other travel costs.
  • Budget for any gift shop purchases. I know, it might sound silly. But national park gift shops are filled from top to bottom with any and every type of merchandise that they can stamp the park name on. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of being in a park and buying “one of everything.” (Just ask us how many things we hauled home from Yellowstone!) Try to pace yourself and set some spending limits with the fam before you head through the gift shop doors.

You can read more of our national parks posts here.

If you are looking for ways to save money on your next trip to one of the many national parks, it is definitely possible. Take some time to plan out your trip and you will be surprised at how many ways there are to create a budget-friendly itinerary. 

bison in yellowstone

We’d love to hear your tips for saving in the parks! Drop us a comment with how you cut costs when heading to national parks. 


Save in National Parks PIN

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