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Free admission to national parks

From Acadia to Zion, June 9 will be a no-fee day at all National Park Service sites. And starting this year, active military personnel can get free annual passes.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 1, 2012 3:09PM

Image: Kayak (© Stewart Cohen/Blend Images/Corbis)Looking for cheap recreation? Of the National Park Service's 397 sites and parks, 264 are always free.

The other 133 will be free Saturday, June 9. These no-fee walks in the parks aren't limited to rocks, trees and game animals. They include lighthouses, wild horses, canyons, trout fishing, presidential papers, sled dog puppies, cave tours, whales and, of course, history. Lots of history.

How about a trip to:

More interested in nature? Those trees, rocks and animals abound at places like Bryce Canyon National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore (home to wild horses), Badlands National Park and Acadia National Park. (Post continues after video.)

Most people don't realize the scope of these national treasures, Park Service spokeswoman Kathy Kupper says. "They know a handful of famous ones, but they don't realize there's probably one close to where they live."

'As economical as you'd like'

Although a certain number of free days are scheduled annually, this is the first time that all Park Service locations are free on National Get Outdoors Day, which the U.S. Forest Service created in 2008 to encourage healthy recreation.

You'll save anywhere from $3 to $25 on June 9, depending on which site you visit. However, you might still have to pay for certain amenities like privately managed parking or bus tours.

Seventeen fee-free days were scheduled for 2012. After June 9, the remaining free days are Sept. 29 and Nov. 10-12. Beginning this year, active-duty military personnel and their dependents can get a free annual pass by showing military ID at any Park Service site.

If you're 62 or older, you can purchase a lifetime pass for $10. (This pass is good for those traveling with you, too.) People with permanent disabilities can get annual passes for free.


While it's possible to spend a lot of money at some locations on third-party activities, food and souvenirs, a day at a Park Service site can be "as economical as you'd like," Kupper says: "You could pick a free park or a fee-free day, and pack a lunch and go on a ranger program."

For a list of Park Service locations that are free year-round, click here.


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Jun 1, 2012 3:27PM
Fantastic news Donna, I head to Montana next week!  Will be in Glacier and it vicinity on the 9th!
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.