National Park Free Entrance Days in the United States

Updated on January 3, 2024 by Julie McCool

2024 National Park free entrance days offer an extra incentive to visit new and favorite United States parks. On these special days, all National Parks waive admission fees, and many host special events for visitors to enjoy. The United States National Park Service establishes several fee-free days each year to encourage the public to visit.

New in 2024, June 19th is now a free entrance day to honor Juneteenth National Independence Day. The Park Service last added a free entrance day in 2020 to celebrate the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.

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There are now six 2024 National Park free entrance days. (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.)

The six 2024 National Park free entrance days offer a great incentive to visit your closest national parks and save a few dollars in the process. Note that camping fees are still charged at regular rates on free park entrance days.

US National Park Free Entrance Days
US National Park Service Free Entrance Days

Since there are only six 2024 National Park free entrance days, you'll need to plan ahead to make the most of them. Martin Luther King, Jr Day in January is the first of the free days at National Parks.

Some parks hold special programs honoring Dr. King, with an emphasis on volunteering. Additional free days kick off National Park Week and honor Juneteenth, the Great Outdoors Act, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.

2024 National Park Free Entrance Dates

Here are the six 2024 National Park Free Entrance Dates when usage fees are waived at all National Parks:

It's nice to visit when the entry is free, but if you live in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area you should also consider buying an annual pass. You'll get your money's worth with only a few repeat visits to our local national parks and national forests.

Learn how to get a US National Park Pass and why you might be eligible for a discount now!
annual US national park pass
Annual US National Park Pass

National Parks in the Northern Virginia / Washington DC Area

Entrance fees vary widely at US National Parks. Some parks are free year-round, while other popular spots like Yosemite and Sequoia National Park in California, charge $35. Here are a few fun facts that will make you happy to live in or visit the Virginia and Washington DC region:

  • There are a lot of National Parks in the Capitol region: 21 in Virginia, 16 in Maryland, 6 in West Virginia, and 23 in DC!
  • Not only are there many parks, but there are also 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 2024 National Park free entrance days.
  • The remaining 51 national parks in the area are always free to enter.

Here are four National Parks in Northern Virginia that are worth a visit year-round, especially on a free entry day.

Great Falls Park

Fall mist at Great Falls Park Virginia
Fall Mist Great Falls Park VA

Beautiful Great Falls Park is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and it's less than 20 miles from Washington DC. The normal entrance fee increased in 2020 to $20.00 per car, $15 per motorcycle, and $10.00 if you enter on foot, bike, or horse, for a 7-day pass.

Fee-free days are a great value at Great Falls, even if you just make a quick visit to the waterfall overlooks. If time allows a longer visit, 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 Great Falls Visitor Center and a quick visit to the falls overlooks. The Visitor Center features displays and movies about the park's interesting geology and its connection to George Washington.

Alert: The Great Falls Park Visitor Center is currently closed.

National Park free entrance days are also a great time to visit the Maryland side of Great Falls (more info below).

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Henry House and fence Manassas Battlefield VA
Henry Hill, Manassas Battlefield

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.

In nice weather, hike the 5-mile First Manassas loop trail, or a similar 6-mile trail that follows sites of the Battle of Second Manassas. If the weather is cold, visit the excellent displays at the Visitor Center and explore the 20-mile self-guided driving tour.

Make your visit part of a weekend getaway to historic Manassas.

Prince William National Forest

Bridge over Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest
Prince William Forest

Prince William National Forest is a Northern Virginia hidden gem. The park boasts 37 miles of hiking trails and a 9-mile scenic loop drive with dedicated bike lanes. Stop in the Visitor Center to get oriented. Displays explain the unique history and geology you'll find in the park. The Prince William Forest rangers can advise on the best trails and stops for your interests.

The normal entrance fee is $20 per vehicle; $10 for individuals on foot or bike, and $15 for a motorcycle; for a seven consecutive day pass.

Shenandoah National Park

Beautiful View from Little Stony Man Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Beautiful View from Little Stony Man

Shenandoah National Park is one of America's true gems, and it's a fantastic value on fee-free days. The normal Shenandoah entrance fee is $30 per vehicle, $25 motorcycle, $15 walk-up or bike for a 7-day pass.

There are trails in the park for everyone, whether you want a quick easy walk or a challenging climb. Here are a few of our favorite Shenandoah National Park trails:

Even on cold winter days, the views along Skyline Drive are spectacular. The road often closes during icy and snowy weather, so check the Shenandoah Park website before you head out. 

Most of the indoor facilities are closed in winter. But the Byrd Visitor Center is open on weekends, providing excellent information about the history of the park.

Extend your fun with a Shenandoah Valley Road Trip.

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

Billy Goat Trail view C&O Canal NP, Maryland
Billy Goat Trail, C&O Canal National Historic Park, Maryland

On the Maryland side of the Potomac River, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park offers several trails leading to views of Great Falls and Mather Gorge. The popular Billy Goat Trail offers breathtaking views along the gorge. This is a fun but challenging trail full of rock scrambles, so good hiking boots are recommended.

The Visitor Center has interesting displays that explain how the canal lock system works. In summer, visitors can even ride through the locks on a mule-pulled canal boat. The usual fees—$20 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle, and $10 per pedestrian or bike, for a 7-day pass—are waived on fee-free days.

Our US parks are a treasure. Happily, the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area offers easy access to some great park experiences. 2024 National Park free entrance days offer one more good reason to get out and explore a park today.

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US National Park Free Entrance Days and parks to visit near Washington DC and Northern Virginia
US National Park Free Entrance Days