Take advantage of free entrance days in National Parks and Washington State Parks throughout the year. Mark your calendar for these fee-free days. Plan an outing with family or friends at the nearest park. Or, get away to another park around Washington State.
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Short History of Our National Parks
In 1872 in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone national park was established as a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of all people. Thus began not only a national, but a worldwide park movement. Several key events established the National Park Service:
In 1906, The Antiquities Act signed by President Theodore Roosevelt grew out of a movement to protect the prehistoric cliff dwellings, pueblo ruins and early missions in the Southwest. Nearly a quarter of the units currently in the National Park System originated in whole or part from the Antiquities Act.
By 1916 the Department of Interior oversaw 14 national parks, 21 national monuments, and the Hot Springs and Casa Grande Ruin reservations. However, there was no unified leadership or organization to operate them, leaving them vulnerable to competing interests. Congress passed what is often known as the Organic Act, which established the basis for the mission, philosophy, and policies of the National Park Service.
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt through executive orders transferred the War Department’s parks and monuments, the national monuments held by the Forest Service, and the parks in the nation’s capital to the National Park Service, including the responsibility for virtually all monuments created thereafter. The reorganization was one of the most significant events in the evolution of the National Park System, greatly expanding their holdings, establishing a single national system of parklands, and adding responsibility for historic preservation as a primary mission of the Service.
Many other acts have continued to refine and expand national parks, including the 1966 Act required that all historical parks be entered in the National Register of Historic Places, the 1968 National Trails System Act, the 1973 he Endangered Species Act, the 1998 National Park Omnibus Management Act, and many others.
Today, the U.S. National Park System now includes over 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. In addition, more than 100 nations contain some 1,200 national parks or preserves.
In the U.S., more than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s national parks and work with communities across the nation to preserve local history and create recreational opportunities. America’s Best Idea – the national parks – gets even better with fee-free days at more than 100 national parks nationwide that usually charge entrance fees*.
2022 National Parks Free Entrance Days
Take advantage of Free Entrance Days in National Parks throughout the year. Mark your calendar for these entrance fee–free dates in 2022:
- January 17: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- April 16: First day of National Park Week.
- August 4: One year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). More info: GAOA – Infrastructure (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
- September 24: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
National Parks in Washington State
The following National Parks in Washington State take part in national free entrance days. The entrance fee waiver for fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours. But many national park concessioners join the National Park Service to welcome visitors with their own special offers.
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
- Lewis & Clark National Historical Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Whitman Mission National Historic Site
Always free Washington State National parks
There are more than 400 national parks available to everyone, every day across the country. The above free entrance days provide a great opportunity to visit a new place or an old favorite, especially one of the national parks that normally charge an entrance fee.
Many others are free all the time, including the following national sites in Washington State:
- Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve
- Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail
- Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
- Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area
- Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
- Manhattan Project National Historical Park
- Minidoka National Historic Site
- Nez Perce National Historical Park
- North Cascades National Park
- Oregon National Historic Trail
- San Juan Island National Historical Park
- Wing Luke Museum Affiliated Area
Washington State Parks Free Entrance Days
When Yellowstone was set aside in 1872 as the world’s first national park, it marked the start of a new attitude toward the American outdoors. Citizens gradually came to see value in saving tracts of open space for everyone to enjoy. By 1900, three more national parks had been added (including Mount Rainier National Park in 1899), and a few scattered states had begun to develop public parks of their own. When the first National Conference of State Parks was held in 1921, 29 states still had not established any state parks at all.
However, Washington State already boasted seven even though the Parks Board was only a few years old. Between 1921-1928, when car ownership increased, Washington State added a dozen more sites. By 1950, the number had increased to 130. These included a half dozen marine parks, the first in an extensive system of parks designed just for boaters. Annual attendance at state parks soars from 1.6 million at the start of the decade to seven million in 1960.
Washington State Parks free entrance days also occur throughout the year. On these days, the Discover Pass is not required to visit a Washington State Park. Note: A Discover Pass will still be required on free entrance days to access lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
About the Washington State Discover Pass
The Discover Pass allows you to enjoy millions of acres of Washington state-managed recreation lands – including state parks, water-access points, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads. The Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks and recreation lands managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). One pass can be transferred between two vehicles.
Several Washington state parks are equipped with automated pay stations for visitors to purchase one-day and annual Discover Passes upon arriving at the park.
Find other locations where you can buy the Discover Pass: discoverpass.wa.gov/133/Where-to-Buy.
2022 Washington State Parks Free Entrance Days
Free days apply only to day use (not overnight stays or rented facilities).
Sno-Park permits are still required on free days at designated Sno-Parks during the winter season.
- Jan. 1 — First Day Hikes; New Year’s Day
- Jan. 17 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- March 9 — Billy Frank Junior’s Birthday
- March 19 — State Parks’ 108th Birthday
- April 22 — Earth Day
- June 11 — National Get Outdoors Day
- June 12 — Free Fishing Day
- June 19 — Juneteenth
- Sept. 25 — National Public Lands Day
- Oct. 10 — World Mental Health Day
- Nov. 11 — Veterans Day
- Nov. 25 — Native American Heritage Day
2022 Washington State Parks calendar on sale now!
The Washington State Parks 2022 wall calendar is now available for purchase! The calendar features brilliant color photos that represent some of the park system’s premier and unique features. Each year’s calendar is filled with amazing photos of some of the best locations from around our state.
BONUS: You’ll never forget a free state parks days! They are all listed on the calendar! It is a great reminder to plan your outdoor adventures year-round.
But wait, there’s more!
- 10 best free outdoor activities year-round
- Most amazing natural wonders in Washington State
- Best summer vacation ideas in Washington State
- 7 affordable winter sports on ice and snow
- Where to watch wildlife in Washington State (free!)
- Guide to Washington State Wine Growing Regions
- Bird Watching in the Puget Sound region
- More Getaways & Day Trips
- And here’s a list of 101+ always free things to do for fun
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page
Upcoming getaways & day trips
Here are upcoming getaways and day trips listed on our calendar in the new few months. The items listed first each day in GRAY are FEATURED EVENTS. Featured events are often one-time events or those that don’t occur annually, such as festivals.
Thursday, August 18, 2022
Friday, August 19, 2022
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Sunday, August 21, 2022
Monday, August 22, 2022
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
Wednesday, August 24, 2022
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Friday, August 26, 2022
Saturday, August 27, 2022
Sunday, August 28, 2022
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Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Thursday, September 1, 2022
Friday, September 2, 2022
Saturday, September 3, 2022
Sunday, September 4, 2022
Monday, September 5, 2022
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
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Thursday, September 8, 2022
Friday, September 9, 2022
Saturday, September 10, 2022
Sunday, September 11, 2022
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Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
Thursday, September 15, 2022
Friday, September 16, 2022
Saturday, September 17, 2022
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Friday, September 23, 2022
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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Thursday, September 29, 2022
Friday, September 30, 2022
Saturday, October 1, 2022
Sunday, October 2, 2022
Friday, October 7, 2022
Saturday, October 8, 2022
Sunday, October 9, 2022
Monday, October 10, 2022
Friday, October 14, 2022
Saturday, October 15, 2022
Sunday, October 16, 2022
Friday, November 11, 2022
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