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2018 National Park free entrance days offer an extra incentive to visit new and favorite United States parks, with no admission fees and special events to enjoy. The United States National Park Service establishes several fee-free days each year to encourage the public to visit.
Unfortunately, 2018 has only four National Park free entrance days, far fewer than the last several years. There were 10 fee-free days in 2017, and even more in 2016 when the US celebrated the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. 2018 free entrance days offer the perfect incentive to visit your local National Parks and save a few dollars in the process.
Since there are few 2018 National Park free entrance days, you’ll need to plan ahead to make the most of them. If you live in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area and make repeat visits to our local parks, this is a great year to invest in an annual National Park pass.
>> Learn how to get a US National Park Pass and why you might be eligible for a discount now!
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the first of the 2018 National Park free entrance days. Some parks hold special programs honoring Dr. King, with an emphasis on volunteering. Additional free days kick off National Park Week, and honor National Public Lands Day and Veterans Day.
National Parks in the Northern Virginia / Washington DC Area
Here are a few fun facts that will make you happy to live in or visit the Virginia / Washington DC area:
- There are a lot of National Parks in the area: 21 in Virginia, 16 in Maryland, 6 in West Virginia and 23 in DC!
- Not only are there many parks, there are a huge variety of park experiences to choose from—scenic trails, forests, battlefields, historic sites, monuments, and more.
- Of those 66 parks, 15 normally charge entrance fees that will be waived on 2018 National Park free entrance days.
- The remaining 51 national parks in the area are always free to enter.
Here are four of National Parks in Northern Virginia that are worth a visit year round, whether it’s a fee entry day or not.
Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The normal entrance fee is $10.00 per car or motorcycle, $5.00 if you enter on foot, bike or horse, so free days are a great value at Great Falls. If the weather is good, Great Falls has wonderful hiking and is a popular picnic spot.
When the weather is rainy or chilly, you can still find a lot to do at the Visitor Center or with a quick visit to the nearby falls overlooks. The Visitor Center features displays and movies about the park’s interesting history and geology.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas National Battlefield Park has not charged an entrance fee since 2015, but it’s a great park to visit year round. Two important Civil War battles were fought on park grounds, and the site looks much as it did during the time of the conflict.
Cold weather activities include visiting the excellent displays at the Visitor Center and visiting battle sites on the 20 mile self-guided driving tour. We enjoyed hiking the 5-mile First Manassas loop trail, and a similar 6-mile trail follows sites of the Battle of Second Manassas.
> Find books about Civil War history at Manassas Battlefield now!
Prince William National Forest
Prince William National Forest is a Northern Virginia hidden gem, with 37 miles of hiking trails and a 9-mile scenic loop drive with dedicated bike lanes. Stop in the Visitor Center to get oriented and learn about the unique history and geology you’ll find in the park. The rangers can advise on the best trails and stops for your interests.
The normal entrance fee is $7.00 per vehicle; $5 for individuals on foot, bike, or motorcycle; good for seven days. Fees for camping at one of the historic cabins or open sites are still charged at regular rates on National Park free entrance days.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is one of America’s true gems, and it’s a fantastic value on fee-free days. The normal $25 entrance fee ($20 motorcycle, $10 walk-up or bike) is waived on all National Park free entrance days.
Even in the cold of winter, the views along Skyline Drive are spectacular, but the road often closes during inclement weather, so check the website before you go. Most of the indoor facilities are closed until late March, but the Byrd Visitor Center is open on winter weekends, providing excellent information about the history of the park.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
On the Maryland side of the Potomac River, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park offers several trails leading to views of Great Falls and Mather Gorge. The popular Billy Goat Trail offers breathtaking views along the gorge on a fun but challenging trail full of rock scrambles.
The Visitor Center has interesting displays that explain how the lock system works, and in summer visitors can even ride through the locks on a mule-pulled canal boat. The usual $10 entry fee ($5 walk-up or bike) is waived on fee-free days.
Entrance and usage fees will be waived at National Parks on 4 days in 2018.
- January 15, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 21, First Day of National Park Week
- September 22, National Public Lands Day
- November 11, Veterans Day
Our US parks are a treasure, and in the Northern Virginia area we have ready access to some great park experiences. 2018 National Park free entrance days offer one more good reason to get out and explore a park today.