Keep your distance for free: National Park Services suspends park fees

Mar 23, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The National Park Service has announced that it would suspend all entrance fees until further notice at parks that remain open.

The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in unprecedented closures and cancelations around the world in an effort to stop the outbreak. In addition to that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging people to stay home and keep their social distance (at least six feet apart from others), which has understandably led to nationwide cabin fever.

Related: Here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about booking future travel now

However, social distancing doesn’t mean that you’re banned from going outside (but that could happen soon). If possible, you should get some fresh air every day even if it’s just a walk around your backyard. For those lucky enough to live near a national park, no entrance fees is fantastic news and a great excuse to get outside and explore while keeping your social distance. And when we say “live near,” we mean a quick drive that doesn’t require stopping and coming in contact with others.

So if you’re one of the lucky ones, pack a lunch, put on your hiking clothes and get some much needed fresh air and exercise. Note that all park visitor centers, shuttles, lodges and restaurants will be closed.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Here’s a look at a few of the parks that are still open and free of charge near major cities.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro desert (Photo by ericfoltz/Getty Images)

Saguaro is just 30 minutes outside of Tucson, Arizona. Here you can enjoy views of both the Tucson and Rincon mountains while enjoying giant cacti and other desert plants. The Valley View Overlook trail is one of the easier hikes that visitors recommend.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga National Park
Brandywine Falls (Photo by ShriramPatki/Getty Images)

This park is always free, but we’re including it because it’s only a half-hour drive from southern Cleveland. Cuyahoga is known for its many waterfalls and is home to more than 125 miles of hiking trails. Check out the Brandywine Gorge Trail, where you can enjoy prime views of the 60-foot Brandywine Falls.

Gateway National Recreation Area

This park is just an hour outside of New York City and if you’re a New Yorker (or you live in New Jersey) who happens to have a car, then this is an easy trip. The Sandy Hook hiking trail is a park favorite as it’s stroller and wheelchair friendly due to being paved.

Before you head out

We can’t emphasize this enough — if you are planning to visit a national park, it should be within a reasonable distance for a day trip, which means no stops are required.

You should not do any risky activities that will put you or others in danger. For instance, stick to the easy hikes along designated trails to avoid potential accidents.

All park visitor centers, shuttles, lodges and restaurants will be closed so be sure to pack snacks and water. As always, practice being a responsible traveler by picking up after yourself and respecting the national parks.

Bottom line

If you don’t live near one of these amazing national Parks, fees are also waived annually on Aug. 25 — the NPS’s birthday — in addition to a few other dates. Beyond that, if you plan to visit two or more national parks this year, you may want to purchase an annual pass for $80.

Regardless, we have a feeling that when this is all over, people are going to be craving lots and lots of outdoor adventure. In that case, here’s a look at some of the TPG staffs’ favorite parks for some inspiration.

In the meantime, stay safe and protect yourself and others. We are not encouraging anyone to travel at this time, but social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get some fresh air. Take some time to walk around your backyard or neighborhood if a national park isn’t nearby.

Further reading on national parks:

Featured photo by ericfoltz/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.