National Park Fee-Free Days 101 - What and when they are

One of the biggest things that we always push for every year are National Park Free Days that Shenandoah participates in through the National Park Service. 

For those that want either a budget getaway or just a sample of all that the National Parks have to offer, these are perfect key dates to know and plan for!

We also talk about these year round because of another reason - these weekend get busy, and we want to make sure you have enough time to plan for them.

What are Fee-Free Days?

National Park Fee-Free days are select days throughout the year that the National Parks Service waives their entrance fee to all National Park Service Sites. 

This means that any park, historic site, or visitor’s center has free entry- which is over 400 sites, including Shenandoah National Park. You don’t have to be a US Citizen to enjoy this little treat; any and everyone is welcome to get out and explore on these days.

These days rotate each year, but are usually focused on major milestones or anniversaries surrounding the national parks. 

For 2024, there are 6 days spread throughout the year to honor things like National Park Week, Martin Luther King Jr., National Public Lands Day, and the Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.

This is a pretty big bonus, especially for those that have yet to purchase an annual membership to the National Parks, as daily rates can get pricey! 

For Shenandoah National Park for example, it’s $30 for a private-vehicle pass that covers anyone in that car. It is valid for 7 consecutive days, but if you’re only going for a weekend or just getting started in exploring national parks, that can be pretty expensive!

What are the dates?

For 2024, the 6 fee-free days are:

Please note that the entrance fee is waived during these time, but other fees for camping, boating, tours or more may still be applicable!

Visiting Shenandoah during a Fee-Free Day - Tips

This is such a good opportunity to explore for free, but there are some things that you may want to keep in mind if you plan to book a trip during this time!

  • This will be a busy weekend! Be sure to give yourself ample time to get into the parks, and I’d suggest arriving early in the day before the crowds hit.
  • Reservations tend to spike around these dates as well, if you’re going to stay overnight, reserve in enough time to make sure you find a place that’s perfect for you
  • Because this is such a busy weekend, if you plan on hiking I would try and find trails that either have plenty of parking or are less popular. Trails like Stoney Man or Mary’s Rock are amazing, but will fill up quickly! Depending on weather, ability, and interest, I’d suggest looking at Millers Head Trail or Hazel Falls and Caves - but tools like AllTrails can help you find hidden gems.