There are five free-entrance days (no fee!) in 2020 for national parks and national monuments in Northern California. Hike your favorite trails, picnic, explore, and enjoy nature with your friends and family.
Coronavirus Update: Free Entrance to National Parks
On March 18, 2020, the National Park Service announced that most national parks would stop charging fees, in an effort to get more people safely outside during the coronavirus pandemic. Check with individual parks for details, including if they are open, and which parts are open.
And see my recent article about hiking and walking safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
2020 Free Entrance Days to Northern California National Parks and Monuments
Here are the five days in 2020 that you can save your hard-earned money and not have to pay a entrance fee to visit Northern California national parks and national monuments:
Monday, January 20, 2020: Official birthday recognition for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Saturday, April 18, 2020: First day of National Park Week
Tuesday, August 25, 2020: Birthday of the National Park Service
Saturday, September 26, 2020: National Public Lands Day
Wednesday, November 11, 2020: Veterans Day
2020 Fees at National Parks and Monuments
Entrance fees have gone up substantially in recent years, and 2020 was slated to see large increases. Fortunately, enough Americans protested so that the National Park Service backed down, with only a small number of national parks across the country seeing a $5 increase. It costs $35 for a one-day vehicle pass for Yosemite National Park, and $30 for Lassen Volcanic National Park, so taking advantage of these free-entrance days can save you some serious money.
Hiking Northern California National Parks and Monuments
Here’s a list of the Northern California national parks and monuments and related federal entities that are particularly attractive to hikers who want to hit the trails on the fee-free days. Make sure you check trail conditions and restrictions, and be aware that higher elevation trails are usually snow-bound from late fall to early summer.
Yosemite National Park
Definitely one of the most popular parks in the country, and for good reason. Tons of hiking opportunities in all parts of Yosemite National Park, including some on/near the valley floor that are low enough in elevation to be accessible much of the year. Definitely the most popular destination of all the ones listed here!
Lassen Volcanic National Park
One of my favorite spots on the planet and also the host of many of the hikes in my two books Day Hiking: Mount Shasta, Lassen & Trinity Alps Regions and 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a must-visit. Note that the hiking trails are all above 6000 feet and are only accessible from mid-summer to mid-autumn.
Lava Beds National Monument
Tucked away in the northeast corner of the state, Lava Beds National Monument has a dozen-plus hiking trails, plus many opportunities to explore the lava-tube caves. The trails and caves are mostly accessible year-round, although there is some snow in winter.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Low-elevation and accessible year-round, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area has a beautiful lake and lots of trails. Much of it burned by the 2018 Carr Fire, but many trails trails have reopened. Whiskeytown Lake will definitely have warm water for swimming on August 25th, and probably even on September 26th.
Redwood National and State Parks
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is always free (no entrance fee) and is always worth a visit for the wide variety of paths that explore the shoreline and nearby.
Muir Woods National Monument
You can hike through stately redwood groves, through mixed forest, and along open slopes in Muir Woods National Monument. You also have the option to explore nearby Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes many trails at beaches and important historical areas in multiple parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of the trails are accessible free of cost year-round.
Pinnacles National Park
Hiking and Camping the National Parks and Monuments on Free-Entrance Days: Be Prepared for Crowds
You won’t be the only one taking advantage of this special deal, especially when there’s no entrance fee. Try to pick trails that are less popular or remote, and try to get to the trailhead early.
Want to camp? Reserve as early as you can. Go to the specific park website for details on making reservations. Same goes if you want to stay in a hotel or motel. Book now!
Consider Buying an America the Beautiful Pass…
That will get you into all (or nearly all) federal lands that charge entrance fees. Details here, with these main options:
- The Annual Pass: costs $80 in 2020; this is what I get most years
- The Senior Pass: $20 annual or $80 lifetime for those 62 and older
And There Are Free Passes to the National Parks
- Military Annual Pass: free for active-duty military personnel and dependents, including people serving in the Reserve and National Guard
- Access Pass: free for those with permanent disabilities
- Fourth Grade Pass: free entrance for fourth graders through the summer past fourth grade; includes other people in the vehicle or up to three other accompanying people.
Your Take on Free-Entrance Days at Northern California National Parks and Monuments
Questions or comments? Put ’em in the comments section below!