How to Get Free National and State Park Entry Passes

All parks budgets are squeezed to the max, but free national and state park entry passes are still a relatively easy thing to get. You’ll need to plan your RV trip carefully to do it, but the effort is worthwhile when you save the cash.

3 Tips for Free National And State Park Visits

free national and state park entry
Image: National Park Service.

Before getting started in your search for a free national and state park visit, remember a couple of things. First, you’ll save money with a free entrance pass, but in most cases the savings only apply to the actual park entry fee. Camping and other recreational fees like fishing usually apply once you’re inside the park. Second, those free park days tend to be quite busy, so don’t expect a ton of solitude once you arrive. Aside from those two limitations (and maybe others depending on the specific pass and location), scoring a free visit is pretty easy. Here’s how.

Go RVing on Free National Park Days

Unless you or a close family member qualifies for the free national parks pass for military members, or you have a child who qualifies for the free annual pass for fourth grade students, national park visits are more expensive all the time. The best way to get around the increases is by planning your adventure around any of the National Parks System’s free days that take place every year.

Drive into a national park on one of five annual free entry days and you’ll get a free ride for as long as the usual entry fee is good for (often up to seven days), as long as you never leave the gates. Keep these U.S. National Park Free Days in mind when planning your next adventure:

 January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
April 20 – First Day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
August 25 – National Park Service Anniversary
September 28 – National Public Lands Day
November 11 – Veterans Day

Look for Free Days at Your Nearest State Park

Just do an internet search for “(your state) state park free days in (year)” and you might find a list of free park entrance days somewhere you want to camp.

For instance, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission is legally required to give residents 12 free Washington state park free entry days per year.

Oftentimes, free days coincide with some sort of state celebration. Places like Vermont and Colorado offer free admission on or around their statehood day celebrations. Other states like South Dakota have an Open House weekend with free admission to state parks. And Nevada offers free state park entry on Nevada Public Lands Days. Thankfully many of these celebrations are during the summer camping season!

Last but not least, most states offer free park entry all year round for military members.

Volunteer at National and State Parks

free national and state park entry
Image: NPS.gov

Perhaps the best way to get free national and state park entrance is to help the park systems with your time and labor. Many states like Georgia offer free days for volunteers on certain days of the year. And the National Park Service gives a free entry pass to volunteers who log 250 or more hours of work with the parks.

Most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in states like Connecticut and New Hampshire, which offer free state park entry to residents with valid car license plates. That’s when an internet search engine can be your best friend to help you find free park entry fees that work with your travel schedule. Good luck and happy camping!



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Five Ways to Annoy Campground and RV Park Neighbors

The RV lifestyle can sometimes be deceiving. RVs give us the freedom to go nearly anywhere, but that doesn’t always translate to the ability to do what we want, when we want to do it – if we care about camping and boondocking etiquette. If we don’t care, we are practically guaranteed to annoy campground and RV park neighbors by following these five simple behaviors:

The Five Best Ways to Annoy Campground and RV Park Neighbors

annoy campground and RV park neighbors
Are you taking common courtesy on the road?

Keep your RV generator running at all hours.

Who needs to hear crickets chirping at dusk, or the silence of nature in the back country? If you keep your generator running all day and all night, you can enjoy life as usual. Watch TV at all hours, run that microwave and keep the A/C going without sacrificing one bit of your own comfort while you’re out in nature. It’s just like staying home.

Don’t turn off your outside lights.

Your RV’s manufacturer wouldn’t have included pretty LED patio lighting on the side of your rig if they didn’t want you to use it, right? But turning patio lights on and off when you need to go outside at night can be such a hassle. So as soon as the sun sets, just keep your patio lights blaring until morning. You never know when you’ll need to walk the dog at 3 am. Besides, your neighbors can use the light too. If it bothers them, they always get a sleep mask or install RV night shades.

Allow your dog or children to run around off-leash and unsupervised.

Kids and dogs can be wild by nature, so when you want your human or furry children to experience the real meaning of freedom, just turn them loose on the campground and see what happens. Don’t interrupt your important binge watching afternoon to go outside and keep an eye on their activities. The neighbor will probably let you know if something is wrong.

Feed local wildlife.

When you’re out in the woods, the last thing you want to spend time doing is tackling household chores like taking out the trash. Go have fun instead and keep your garbage piled up around your campsite until you leave for good. Better yet, just leave garbage for the animals. Ravens, mice and bears will have an easier time finding dinner, especially when they realize there’s more good eats inside your neighbor’s camper.

Smoke outside next to your neighbor’s RV.

In the land of the free, everyone has the right to decide if and what they want to smoke. Forget those studies showing the effects smoking within 30 feet of another person. All the chemicals you inhale with every puff haven’t killed you yet and who knows, they might even invigorate your neighbor’s immune system too! So light up in the campground and if it bothers your neighbor, let them know that respirator masks are cheap.

The tips in this tongue-in-cheek article are not the only behaviors that can annoy campground and RV park neighbors, but will certainly prevent you from making friends during your RV travels. Consideration for other campers is paramount for happier, memorable road trips.



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RV Park Reviews And Photos Of Campgrounds In The RV Life App

You’ve heard it said, “It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey.” Truth be told, with RVing, it’s both.

To enjoy either of those, you need to be able to find an accommodating campsite for your tent, trailer, fifth wheel, or motorhome. Whether it’s a quick overnight stop on your way to a National Park, the park itself, or an elaborate full-featured RV resort, the RV Life app will help you get there.

For over a decade, savvy RV veterans have used RV Park Reviews as the definitive source for accurate campground reviews by actual campers. Now, RV Life brings the depth of that exclusive database to your mobile device within the RV Life app.

RV Life app

Unlike other review sources, real RV and camping enthusiasts contribute detailed reviews and photos of campgrounds and park locations they have visited. Over 200,000 unbiased experiences of these travelers are now at your fingertips within the RV Life mobile app.

Find. Review. Stay. Contribute.

Choosing a great campground starts with the excellent filtering capability built into the RV Life app. Tap the Filters button at the top of the map and start narrowing down your campground search. You’ll want to subscribe to the RV Life app to enable the Premium filters such as Park Types and Affiliations.

Work your way down the list and check those features you can’t live without. Whether you choose pets, pools, and pull-throughs or water and Wi-Fi, there is a filter for you. Perhaps you’ll choose to skip the niceties and select the BLM locations and go off-the-grid. The RV Life app lets you do it all.

Now that your choices are more refined you can review the sites that interest you. Tapping a green camper icon on the map reveals a banner at the bottom of the screen with the name of the campground, distance from your current location, and its RV Park Reviews rating.

RV Life app

Tap the banner for a detailed review of the campground, photos, maps, directions and much more. You can even switch to satellite view on the map and zoom in for a closer look to check for ease of access, or get a bird’s-eye view of the park or campground.

Tens of thousands of campers have taken the time to pass on information and opinions of the campgrounds you are interested in. Along with reviews and photos, many reviewers offer sage advice in the Tips for Campers section.

RV Life

Notes about hosts, the roads, local attractions, and eateries are all found here. You can even use the Questions and Answers feature to find additional information. Tap the Ask a Question button and an anonymous request will go out to others that have stayed in the campground that might be able to provide the answer.

When you return from your trip, take a few minutes to reminisce and open the RV Life app on your mobile device and share your valuable opinions about the campgrounds you visited.

RV Park Reviews

While you’re at it, save the campgrounds you enjoyed the most by tapping the Favorite button. Those favorites will then be identified by a heart icon on the map and listed in the Account section in the RV Life app.

With RV Life, you become a part of the RVing community. The RV Park Reviews integration in the RV Life mobile app ensures that you can have the easiest, most comprehensive way to find, review, stay, and contribute.

See also: Offline Access: No Internet, No Problem



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RV Camping At Makoshika State Park

If your travels take you through Glendive, Montana in the eastern part of the state, take some time to explore this geographically diverse area of the country.

Located about 40 minutes from the North Dakota border off of Interstate 94, Glendive will appeal to hikers, photographers, history buffs, and golfers, too.

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Makoshika State Park

You’ll have to endure a few days of dry camping if you stay at Makoshika State Park, but it is well worth the minor inconvenience. There are 15 sites available at Makoshika, which is the largest of Montana’s 55 state parks.

Featuring incredible badlands formations and the fossil remains of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, history and paleontology buffs can spend weeks exploring this picturesque area. You can find the visitor’s center at the entrance to the park; kids will enjoy the interpretive exhibits. Before venturing out into the park, this is a great place to get some background details and history about the park.

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Cottonwood Country Club, Glendive, MT

If after visiting Makoshika State Park and you still haven’t had enough dinosaurs, head to the Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum. Featuring 24 full-size dinosaurs and numerous singular fossils, Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum is impressive in its authenticity.

The Frontier Gateway Museum in Glendive also gives a great overview of life as it was and is. The museum covers prehistoric times right on through to the 21st century. Major displays in the main building include fossils, Native American artifacts, homesteaders, cattlemen, settlers, and the railroad.

Opened in 1962, the 9-hole, par 36 Cottonwood Country Club in Glendive measures 3,163 yards from the tips. Available to members and the general public, Cottonwood is always in immaculate shape and features mature cottonwood trees, challenging elevation changes, and undulating greens.

In addition to the golf course, facilities include a driving range, practice green, pro shop, patio for dining and viewing the course, and a fully-stocked lounge.

For more information on the area, check out VisitGlendive.com. You can also read more about Makoshika State Park on RV Park Reviews.

See also: Exploring The Other Montana



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RVing And Camping Near Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

On a crisp fall day, I stand on the shore of a lake that is sparkling with a million sunlit stars across it; the warm sun on my face making a noticeable contrast to the coolness of the breeze at my back.  The day is a perfect blend of summer shorts and soft fall flannel shirts. 

Flattop Mountain and the Bighorn flats seem to stand guard over the abundant wildlife in the valley floors where the golden leaves of the aspen trees are glowing with the backlighting of the sun. 

The gentle breezes play along the lake surface, painting strokes of light sparkles as they move.  It is the perfect backdrop to a day that breathes the promise of a rugged hike, then warm soup and fresh bread.

Rocky Mountain
Fishing on Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park (Photo by TC Wait)

Rocky Mountain National Park is the crown jewel of Colorado’s National Parks and Monuments.  It is located between Estes Park on the east side and Grand Lake on the west side, about an hour and a half drive northwest from Denver.

As one of the largest and most visited National Parks, averaging over 3 million visitors each year, the park boasts some of the highest elevation of all the National Parks (with over 75 peaks over 12,000 feet), is home to the headwaters of the Colorado River and Cache la Poudre River, and straddles the Continental Divide.  The park is open year-round, and at any time of the year a visitor can quickly see how special “Rocky” is.

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Mummy Mountain in RMNP (Photo by NPS)

Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson as the ninth National Park.  Today it encompasses over 415 square miles ranging from 7,840 feet by the east park entrance to 14,259 feet at the summit of Longs Peak.

Over 95% of the park is wilderness, spanning from the lower moosey marshes, over the moraines, to the alpine tundra, and then the high snowy peaks of the Never Summer Range.

More than a third of the park is above treeline (the altitude at which trees can grow).  Trail Ridge Road, which allows travel 48 miles through the park from Estes Park to Grand Lake, is the highest paved roadway in America topping out at a driving elevation of 12,183 feet, and one of 11 designated America’s Byways in Colorado.

Trail Ridge Road is not maintained during the snowy winter months but makes for a spectacular summer travel route.

Rocky Mountain
Trail Ridge Road above timberline (Photo by NPS)

Although the park sees many visitors each year, there is plenty of space to get away from people and enjoy the wilderness.  The park affords exceptional access to some of the most iconic Colorado scenery and high alpine ecosystems.

While only 100 miles of roads (28 of those on unpaved roads) are available for vehicle access, there are over 355 miles of backcountry hiking trails!  There are 147 lakes and 450 miles of streams, many with fish including the threatened greenback cutthroat trout.

Some of Colorado’s oldest rocks can be found in the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park, carved into exquisite landscapes by glaciers and rivers.  Several small glaciers are still found in the high peaks within the park.

The park is listed as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural (UNESCO) international biosphere reserve and globally important bird area. Portions of the park’s montane, subalpine, and alpine ecosystems are managed as research natural areas for scientific and educational purposes.

The park has five visitor centers and four RV-friendly campgrounds that are open usually from late May to mid-September.  Backcountry camping is also available year-round.  Additional camping options can be found in Estes Park as well as in and around Grand Lake.

See also: 10 National Parks To Visit In 2018



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Best State Park On The Washington Coast For RV Camping

Washington State doesn’t have as many state parks on the coast as Oregon and California, but we recently found one in a scenic, remote spot. Grayland Beach State Park is located off Highway 105 along the Pacific Coast and is only a ten-minute drive from Westport and a half-hour from Aberdeen.

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A coastal state park with full hookups and smooth paved roads. All photos by Nikki Cleveland (author)

Grayland Beach SP has a wide open sandy beach that you can drive on and a wooded campground that is very RV-friendly.  The roads and sites are smoothly paved and large enough for rigs up to 60 feet long.

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Some sites have full hookups, some sites are without sewer. (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

The campground has 55 full hookup sites and 38 sites with partial hookups, including pull-thrus and back-ins, along several loops.  They also have 16 yurt rentals, four primitive sites in the woods, four restrooms, and eight coin-operated showers.

There is also a trailer dump station near the campground exit and a camp store in the main office that sells firewood, propane, ice, beverages, and snacks like ice cream.

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Yurts also available (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

Five trailheads around the campground will take you out to the beach.  The wide open beach has wind-sculpted dunes and soft sand that you can dig your toes into.

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Take the trail to the beach (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

Head out past the dunes to the shore and watch the seagulls flying overhead and the sun setting over the horizon.  During the day this beach is ideal for flying kites, walking your dog, or building sandcastles.

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Watch the sunset over the ocean (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

The state park is open year-round, but the beach can get rainy and cold by winter. You can learn more about the current Washington State Park camping fees here.

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Van life (Photo by Nikki Cleveland)

The state park is a great home base while you visit all of the attractions nearby in Westport.  During the day, drive north to see Twin Harbors State Park and Westport Light State Park.

You can learn more about camping at Grayland Beach on RV Park Reviews.



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Wheelchair Friendly State Park In Colorado: New Track Chair Program

For those who have mobility issues, taking a hike down a wooded trail may sound like a distant dream. In Colorado’s Staunton State Park, a newly launched Track Chair Program now allows trail access to those who cannot explore under their own power.

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Track chairs can take you off the beaten path (Photo by TC Wait)

Staunton State Park is Colorado’s newest State Park (opening in May 2013) encompassing over 3,800 acres of dramatic mountains, historic cabins, mountain meadows filled with wildflowers, and breath-taking waterfalls.

It lies about 40 miles southwest of Denver in the Elk Creek Valley between 8,000 and 10,000 feet elevation. Staunton boasts an extensive trail system for riding horses, hiking, or biking, areas designated for rock climbing, and ponds for fishing.

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Enjoy scenic natural views at Staunton State Park (Photo by TC Wait)

The Staunton family, who donated the initial 1,700-acre parcel of land to become a State Park, have a healing history in the local community dating back to the 1900s. Dr. Rachael Staunton treated everyone from local ranchers to those with tuberculosis and shared healing strategies with Ute tribe members who taught her about using local herbal remedies.

From this history, Staunton State Park now offers the use of donated Track Chairs so that everyone can experience the healing magic of the trails and woods of the area.

In 2017, Staunton State Park initiated its Track Chair Program. Over 150 people participated in the program in its first season. The program relies on donated Track Chairs and volunteers. People can sign up on a first-come basis to use a chair (free of charge) to explore the park in one of the three chairs. The chair units were made available through donations to the Mark Madsen Accessibility Fund, managed by the Friends of Staunton non-profit organization.

The chairs are easy to maneuver and also have controls that the volunteer can use in the event you are not able to on your own or grow tired during your trip. The program volunteer will provide you with instructions on how to operate the chair and travel with you to ensure you have a successful adventure.

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Use one of these Track Chairs free of charge at Staunton State Park (Photo by TC Wait)

Mike, one of the program volunteers, is a former LA firefighter whose wife has Multiple Sclerosis. He is enthusiastic about the success of the program and the freedom it allows people to explore or just BE in a natural area.

He says that some of the people he has accompanied in the Track Chair want to go over every rock and bump in the trail, while others want to enjoy getting out to sit in a quiet place and listen to the birds sing.

He has taken people of all ages and abilities out and each person has their own unique and beautiful experience. He says one person got caught in a brief Rocky Mountain rainstorm and laughed about getting soaked while out on a “hike.”

To reserve a Track Chair, you visit the Staunton Track Chair page. You will need to answer the questionnaire to ensure your needs can adequately be met. You will also need to have a caregiver to accompany you on your hike, in addition to the Track Chair program volunteer. A $7.00/car park entry fee is charged to all visitors.

Be sure that you bring with you what you may need to be comfortable during your hike. Water, sun protection, medical supplies, layers for inclement weather, and of course a camera are recommended.

See also: Resources For RVers With Mobility Challenges



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