National parks across the American Southwest will waive entry fees this Friday, November 11th, 2023 — in honor of Veterans Day — according to the National Park Service (NPS).
The fee waiver includes numerous parks across Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, western Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and southern California.
“Visits to national parks while I was a young sailor in the Navy were incredibly meaningful and formative. Seeing treasured natural and cultural landmarks firsthand connected me to our country’s shared history and provided inspiration to serve and defend,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams, a Navy veteran.
The Veterans Day fee waiver applies to all national parks, including iconic southwestern sites like Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Saguaro, White Sands, and Mesa Verde. Visitors will not need to be veterans themselves to take advantage of the free entry. However, some park exceptions may apply, like an access fee for the Waco Mammoth dig shelter in Texas.
Southwestern parks that normally charge entrance fees year-round top out at $35 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. These include Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Saguaro, and Zion national parks.
Meanwhile, many southwestern parks are free year-round, like Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona, El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico, and Colorado National Monument.
In addition to the holiday fee waiver, current U.S. military members and their families are eligible for free annual passes to the national parks. Recent legislation also provides for lifetime free access for veterans and Gold Star families. The bipartisan Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks Act, passed in December 2021, authorizes these lifetime passes.
For veterans and military families looking to take advantage, this Veterans Day entrance fee waiver presents a nice opportunity to visit a nearby national park site for free. According to Director Sams, it’s a way to honor veterans’ service and “provide inspiration to serve and defend” based on the shared history these parks represent.
Cover photo courtesy of: National Park Service