|Great Smoky Mountains National park near Gatlinburg, Tenn.|
Many times a year, the park service offers “free entrance days.” Expect the park to be crowded on those days, however, as those days often coincide with holidays.
If you plan to hike national parks regularly, you should consider purchasing a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which will get a noncommercial vehicle plus passholder and three passengers into any national park for less than $100 a year. Even less expensive versions of the pass are available for senior citizens, the disabled and National Park volunteers. If you visit a number of parks over several weeks, you’ll definitely save on admission costs going this route.
Be forewarned that there may be additional fees if planning to camp or to park an RV. Almost any hike that involves being part of a tour group at a major destination within a park carries a cost beyond the entry fee.
More tips for visiting national parks:
• National park activities for kids on hiking/camping trips
• Play it safe on Grand Canyon National Park hiking trails
• Four ways to avoid crowds when day hiking
Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.