Consider 2012 "Entrance Fee Free Days" When Planning Your National Park Adventures

Acadia National Park will be among the parks waiving entrance fees during 17 days next year. NPS photo.

True, the entrance fees at national parks are a tiny part of the overall cost of visiting a park. But if you can schedule your 2012 trip to get in free during one of National Park Service's fee-free days, why not?

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar the other day announced that there will be 17 entrance-fee-free days next year in the National Park System. Some, of course, are more conducive than others, depending on where you live.

Here's the breakdown:

* January 14 to 16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend)

* April 21 to 29 (National Park Week)

* June 9 (Get Outdoors Day)

* September 29 (National Public Lands Day), and;

* November 10-12 (Veterans Day)

“From Independence Hall to our newest national park, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, our national parks tell the story of America, from the beauty of our land to our struggle for freedom and justice,” Secretary Salazar said. “Whether or not it’s during one of the 17 fee free days next year, I encourage everyone to visit a park near them and enjoy the remarkable landscapes and historical and cultural sites that are unique to our great country.”

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service will waive their entrance and standard amenity fees January 14 to 16, June 9, September 29, and November 10 to 12. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will also have a fee free day on October 14 in recognition of National Wildlife Refuge Week. The Bureau of Reclamation will waive standard amenity fees on September 29 and November 12.

“The majority of national parks don’t have an entrance fee and those that do charge a maximum of $25 a week for an entire family” said Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We realize there are additional expenses when visiting a park, so many associated businesses will have discounts and enhancements on the fee free days.

“One of the great things about a national park vacation is it can be as economical or luxurious as desired,” added the Park Service Director Jarvis. “A visit can be a few hours or several days. One could pack their lunch or eat at a snack bar, cafeteria, or gourmet dining room. One could sleep under the stars in the backcountry or stay in a campground, motel, or majestic lodge. There is something for everyone at each of the country’s 395 national parks. So mark the dates, grab a friend or family member – especially one that has never been to a park before – and come visit one of your national parks.”