Get the hiking gear ready. Friday, August 4 is Great American Outdoors Day, which means that entrance to all national parks will be free.
The holiday is the third of four fee-free days from the National Park Service at all 423 national parks.
“National parks are really amazing places, and we want everyone to experience them,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “The entrance fee–free days encourage people to discover the beauty, history, and inspiration awaiting them in more than 400 national parks throughout the country.”
The occasion celebrates the anniversary of the passage of the Great American Outdoor Act, federal legislation that provides funding for infrastructure and recreational opportunities in public lands. The law authorized up to $1.9 billion annually through fiscal year 2025 for public land maintenance and guaranteed permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million per year, to be used to improve recreational opportunities and protect public lands, including the watersheds, wildlife, and ecosystems located within parks.
According to NPS, 297 million people visited national parks and spent $20.5 billion in 2021, the latest data available. Shenandoah National Park had 1.6 million park visitors who spent an estimated $113 million in surrounding towns.
If you’re heading to Shenandoah to take advantage of the free entrance, remember to plan ahead:
- Get there early to beat the traffic and the heat;
- Bring plenty of water and sun protection;
- Prepare for what to do if you encounter wildlife.
And don’t forget to explore some parks or other recreational areas with which you may not be as familiar. While Shenandoah is what most people first think of, Virginia has several parks that are operated through the NPS that will also benefit from the fee-free days, including Great Falls and Prince William Forest.
On normal days, entrance fees can range from $5 to $35. Money raised from entrance fees remains within the NPS, funding programs, maintenance, and habitat restoration.
Remember, this only applies to parks and recreational spaces that are run through NPS, so state or local parks will still have fees.
Feature image by Tyler Rickenbach/stock.adobe.com
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