How to See America’s National Parks for Free

In 1869, after a group of adventurers explored a region in the northwest corner of the recently organized Wyoming Territory, editors refused to publish the accounts of their journey thinking that such a place could only be fiction. Nearly 150 years later, Yellowstone is just one of 59 protected areas known as National Parks in the United States.

“At the heart of the park idea is this notion that by virtue of being an American, whether your ancestors came over on the Mayflower or whether they just arrived, whether you’re from a big city or from a rural setting, whether your daddy owns the factory or your mother is a maid, you are the owner of some of the best seafront property this nation has,” Dayton Duncan said in Ken Burns’ Emmy-award winning documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. “You own magnificent waterfalls. You own stunning views of mountains and stunning views of gorgeous canyons. They belong to you! They’re yours, and all that’s asked of you is to put it in your will for your children, so they can have it, too…Now, that’s quite a bargain.”

Best of all, there are a few ways to obtain a free annual pass to see some of America’s 84 million acres of National Parks. Most notably, all current U.S. military members and families with a child starting 4th grade this school year are eligible for a free pass. The one-year pass for 4th graders is valid from September through the August following the completion of their fourth-grade year through the Every Kid in a Park pass.

Whether you’re hoping to visit the oldest park in Yellowstone or the newest park, Pinnacles National Park in Central California, get your pass and start planning your visit today!

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