How to get your pack or troop into a national park for free in 2020

Scouts paddling on river
A seven-day pass to Yellowstone National Park is normally $35 per vehicle. But on five days each year, that fee drops to $0. (Photo by W. Garth Dowling)

There’s only one thing better than taking your Cub Scout pack, Scouts BSA troop, Venturing crew or Sea Scout ship to a national park.

It’s taking them to that national park for free.

With four remaining free entrance days in 2020 and an entire school year free for your fourth grade Webelos, there’s never been a better — or cheaper — time to visit our national parks.

Here’s what you need to know to score this significant deal.

Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is normally $25 per car, but that fee goes extinct on select days.

Free entrance days

On five different dates in 2020, all National Park Service sites that normally charge a free swing their gates wide open.

These are the 2020 free entrance days:

  • Jan. 20: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • April 18: First day of National Park Week
  • Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • Sept. 26: National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11: Veterans Day

Of course, many National Park Service sites (a term that includes national parks, recreation areas, battlefields, monuments and more) are free all the time.

The National Mall in Washington, D.C., America’s most visited national park, never charges a fee.

But for those 112 that do charge for entry, you’ll get a sweet discount on the dates above. For example, if your Scouts wanted to visit Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, you’d need to budget $25 per vehicle. A larger Scout unit requiring four or more cars would be out at least $100.

Well, that’s only true on 361 out of 366 days in 2020.

On the free entrance days, you’re good. Save that money for another Scouting adventure.

To see which National Park Service sites near you charge a fee, check out this list.

Every Kid Outdoors pass
Every pass has a unique barcode (not seen here), so make sure each of your Webelos has their own.

Free pass for fourth graders

There’s one group of lucky youngsters who get free access to public lands for an entire year.

Thanks to an initiative called Every Kid Outdoors, fourth graders can download and print a pass that gets them complimentary admission to public lands and waters.

And good news for parents and Cub Scout leaders: the pass also covers that fourth grader’s guests.

The pass is good at sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Reclamation, U. S. Forest Service and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In other words, it covers pretty much all nationally owned public lands or waters.

As a Cub Scout leader, you can secure passes for your entire den. Just go to this page to begin.

You could even present the passes to your Cub Scouts in some sort of fun ceremony at your next meeting.

If you’re the leader of younger Cub Scouts, be sure to come back to the official page when it’s time and get your passes. This program runs every year.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.