2024 Fee-Free Days State Parks & National Parks


By Snoqualmie Valley-Issaquah-Sammamish Macaroni KID April 7, 2024

Each year Washington State Parks has several free days when the Discover Pass is not required to visit a state park.  It is a great time to check out all the greatness that these parks have to offer! 

Washington State Parks offers several "free days" when a Discover Pass is not required to visit a state park. 

The following are the 2024 State Parks' free days:

A Discover Pass is not needed to park on lands managed by us, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife on 12 days in 2024.

Mark your calendars for our 2024 Discover Pass free days!

Jan. 1 - First Day Hikes & New Year’s Day
Jan. 15 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
March 9 - Billy Frank Jr.’s Birthday
March 19 - State Parks’ 111th Birthday
April 22 - Earth Day
June 8 - National Get Outdoors Day
June 9 - Free Fishing Day
June 19 - Juneteenth
Sept. 28 - National Public Lands Day
Oct. 10 - World Mental Health Day
Nov. 11 - Veterans Day
Nov. 29 - Autumn Day

Note that free days apply only to day use (not overnight stays or rented facilities), and a Discover Pass is required on these days to access lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Sno-Park permits are still required on free days at designated Sno-Parks during the winter season.

The following are 2024 fee-free days at National Parks:

Each of our national parks is a national treasure, and can be a great experience for families of all ages. National parks offer a unique way to connect with nature and learn about our country. 

There are 63 national parks and more than 400 total locations under the National Park Service umbrella. One excellent time to plan a visit to one of these spaces? A fee-free day. There are typically five, but this year the National Park Service has added Juneteenth, which means there are six free days in 2024. On these fee-free days, around 100 national parks and park sites that usually charge entrance fees waive them. These fees usually range from $5 to $35.

The 2024 fee-free days at national parks are:

Jan. 15: 
Martin Luther King Jr. Day  

April 20: 
First Day of  National Park Week  

June 19:

Aug. 4: 
Great American Outdoors Day  

Sept. 28: 
National Public Lands Day  

Nov. 11:
Veterans Day 

The fee waiver for the fee-free days applies only to National Park Service entrance fees and does not cover amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, special tours, or other activities.

The Digital Artist | Canva
Bryce Canyon National Park

Practical tips for visiting national parks with kids

1. Plan ahead

Check the weather before you go, as national parks can have varying elevations and climates. Understanding the typical weather during your visit can help you pack appropriately. You can find weather updates on the National Park Service website. Additionally, explore the website for general information, maps, and details on facilities like restrooms and parking. Starting your day at a visitor center can be helpful; many have informative exhibits and movies that can enhance your park experience.

2. Gather information on-site

Talk to a ranger at the visitor center. They can provide maps and answer your questions. Always have a paper map with you, as GPS and cell service may be unreliable in some areas. Look into the Junior Ranger program, which is available at every national park. It offers booklets with fun activities for kids and can keep them engaged and learning during the visit. Kids can turn in completed booklets to become official Junior Rangers, a fun way for kids to feel especially connected to a park!

Kraynova | Pexels
Everglades National Park

3. Take a hike

Exploring a national park on foot is a great way to experience it fully. Most parks offer various trails, from short walks to day-long hikes. Trails are usually rated by difficulty, so you can choose one suitable for your family. As your kids grow, you can tackle longer hikes. Here's what to pack for a day in the park:

  • Water: Stay hydrated and know the locations of refill stations.
  • Snacks or a meal: Picnic areas are often available, so bring some food.
  • Garbage bag: Pack out your trash; not all parks have ample garbage bins.
  • Layers: Be ready for changing temperatures.
  • Sun protection: Protect against sunburn.
  • Good shoes: Wear supportive footwear.
  • Bug spray: Be prepared for bugs.
  • Gas: Ensure you have enough for remote areas with no cell service.

Visiting national parks is a fantastic way to appreciate our natural wonders. Take advantage of a fee-free day at a national park in 2024 and make some family memories!

Three tips for visiting parks with your kids:

1. Plan ahead

  • Look at the weather. Many national parks take you way above (or below!) sea level. This makes for drastic weather changes. Make sure you know what the typical weather is for when you are going. You can find weather updates on
  • Take a look at the National Park System and WA State Parks websites. You will find general information, directions, maps, and facility information (restrooms, parking, visitor centers, etc) for the locations you plan to visit. 
  • Find out when the visitor center opens and start there. Many parks have a visitor center with a movie and/or an exhibit about the park. My elementary-aged kids can enjoy the landscape more when they understand the history behind it. 

2. Gather information on site before heading out

  • Talk to a ranger. Every national park visitor center has a ranger on staff to answer any questions you may have. With maps and papers in hand, they can point you in the direction of the best hikes and views for your family's needs.
  • Get a paper map. Do not depend on GPS navigation or cell service to guide you through a park. 
  • Ask for a Junior Ranger packet. Every national park has a Junior Ranger program. This is a booklet of assignments kids of all ages can do while visiting a park. It's a great way to keep them engaged and learning while in the park. When completed, kids can turn them into a ranger and get sworn in as an official Junior Ranger. 

3. Take a hike!

There is no better way to get to know a national park than to hike in it. Most parks will have trails ranging from a short overlook to an entire day’s hike. They are rated on difficulty by terrain and elevation gain/loss. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve been able to add in two or three-mile hikes, on top of the many half-mile loops they loved as youngsters. Here's what we bring for a day in the park:

  • Water: No matter what the season, make sure you have water. There are often refill stations throughout a park, but make a note of where they are on a map, especially in the hotter months. We are big fans of hydration packs you can wear on your back.
  • Snacks and/or a meal: If you're going to be moving, you're going to get hungry! Many parks offer picnic areas that offer tables, restrooms, trash receptacles and food storage from animals. You never know what perfect spot you'll find to picnic. 
  • Garbage bag: Whatever you take into the park, plan to take it home with you. While many parks have waste receptacles for garbage, they aren’t all over the place. We often take a small bag with us for trash, just in case we don’t find an appropriate place to leave it in the park. Remember, national parks are set up to protect the landscape and wildlife, not for our entertainment. Be prepared to leave nothing behind.
  • Layers: Whether you are in the mountains, the desert, the forest, or the midwest, national parks often have drastically different temperatures in the morning than midday and even the evening. 
  • Sun protection: You can still get sunburned in the winter on a snow-covered mountain. Sunscreen, sun shirts, sunglasses, and hats will help protect your skin and eyes. 
  • Good shoes: Even level hiking paths can have uneven rocks and fallen trees. Make sure you have shoes with good support for all of your walking needs!
  • Bug spray: You will know when you need it! 
  • Gas: If you’re planning on spending all day in a larger, more remote park, make sure you have a full tank of gas. You do not want to get stranded in the middle of a park. Depending on where you are, there may be no cell service. 

Hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Junior Ranger ceremony, during which kids promise to help take care of the parks. 

Visiting parks is a great way to see our state and nation's natural wonders. With a little planning, and by taking your kids' abilities and interests into account, you can make a trip to a park a trip your kids will always remember.

A version of this story originally appeared in Macaroni KID Family Wellness, a national newsletter as well as Kitsap Macaroni KID.

2024 Fee-Free Days

Fee-free days for 2024 at state parks, national forests, national parks and other public lands have been announced. These are dates where you can park at trailheads or recreation facilities without paying an entry fee or having to display a pass. Consult the list below to find out which public lands are free on which days.
  • Public lands in Washington are managed by several different agencies. Check out our guide to public land to learn about the different land managers. 

WTA encourages hikers to purchase the Northwest Forest Pass and Discover Pass. Revenue from these passes helps fund vital services at trailheads, recreational facilities and parks across the state. Fee-free days, however, are a great way to introduce new people to public lands and trails and provides opportunities for those who cannot afford to purchase a pass.

Not sure what pass you need on the other days of the year? Take a look at our passes and permits resource page