Free Admission to National Parks in Celebration of the Centennial of the National Park Service

National Park Service wooden plaque

You can take advantage of free admission to any of the 413 national parks in the United States through Sunday, August 28, 2016 in honor of the celebration of the official centennial anniversary of the National Park Service, which was born on Friday, August 25, 1916.

Free Admission to National Parks in Celebration of the Centennial of the National Park Service

Stalactites in Mammoth Caves National Park.
Stalactites in Mammoth Caves National Park. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

“The Centennial will celebrate the achievements of the past 100 years, but it is really about the future”, according to this article at the official Internet web site of the National Park Foundation. “It’s about kicking off a second century of stewardship for America’s national parks and for communities across the nation.  Most importantly, it’s about inviting you to join us. We all have a role to play in ensuring that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy the thrilling experiences of nature and wildlife, history and culture, and the spirit of adventure that is waiting at every national park.”

The National Park Service and National Park Foundation have teamed up and are working closely with partners and stakeholders across the country on programs, events, and activities to increase awareness, deepen engagement, and invite support for the national parks of the United States — as well as the work of the National Park Service and its partners — to ensure that the centennial is more than simply another birthday. They want you to embrace the opportunities to explore, learn, be inspired or simply have fun in your 413 national parks — as well as understand how the community-based recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs of the National Park Service positively impacts your own community.

Celebrate by Getting Involved — Or…

Abraham Lincoln log cabin
This is the log cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was born. Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

There are many ways in which you can get involved and enjoy the 413 national parks in the United States — and even more ways to support these special places and their programs.

One way is rather unusual but intriguing: Randal S. Olsen — who is a senior data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Institute for Biomedical Informatics — decided to design the optimal road trip to 47 national parks in celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service and offers an interactive map of the trip: “In total, this road trip spans 14,498 miles (23,333 km) of road and will take roughly 2 months if you’re traveling at a breakneck pace. I’ve designed this road trip to form a circle around the U.S., so you can hop on at any point and proceed whatever direction you like. Just make sure to follow the agenda from that point on if you want to follow the optimal route!”

Abraham Lincoln Memorial
The Abraham Lincoln Memorial — with the Reflecting Pool and the World War II Memorial — is in the upper half of this photograph. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

If you want to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service in a decidedly tamer fashion, you can get involved and do one or more of the following activities:

  • Find a park to visit.
  • Learn how the National Park Service can help your community.
  • Volunteer and give back in our national parks.
  • Join the national park community.
  • Support the National Park Foundation and local park Friends Groups.

Learn More

Washington Monument at dawn
The Washington Monument at dawn. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Find out more: a retrospective of the visual identity of the National Park Service.

Read about the leaders who brought the National Park Service to life. For example, did you know that John Muir is also known as the Father of the National Park Service; and that as the most famous naturalist and conservationist in the United States, he fought to protect the wild places he loved — including Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mount Rainier — as national parks? You can read about him and other people — such as Theodore Roosevelt, who was the 26th president of the United States — who were critically instrumental in the foundation of the National Park Service.

Find out how the National Park Foundation — which is the official charity of the national parks in the United States — helps protect our national parks; connect all Americans to them; and inspires the next generation of park stewards.


Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

The National Park Service joins The Boeing Corporation and Nathan’s Famous frankfurters in Coney Island as entities which were created 100 years ago this year.

The formation of the National Park Service in 1916 was one of the greatest ideas in the United States, designed to help preserve not only treasured national landmarks; but also the indigenous flora, fauna and topography which have been a part of the North American continent for centuries — for all to enjoy during the past 100 years…

…and — hopefully — for at least the next 100 years as well.

All photographs ©2014, ©2015 and ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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