National Parks: First Fee-Free Day of 2017

The nationwide system of parks, sites, and monuments will waive admission on Monday, Jan. 16.

Every year sees its share of firsts, especially near the start of the 365-day run. That's when the tumble of "first day to..." moments occurs, as the new year is fresh.

There is, of course, the first day of the year (we're not even going to "spoiler alert" this one: It's Jan. 1).

There is the first federal holiday, the first day back to school, the first Wednesday, and a veritable waterfall of other first-y occasions.

And the first fee-free day at our national parks always arrives about two weeks into the calendar, as a way to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Which means that 120 fee-charging parks across the United States will waive admission on Monday, Jan. 16 to pay homage to the civil rights leader and his legacy.

You're right: There are far more than 120 parks around the country, by a lot, but the majority of the 400+ national parks, sites, and monuments go admission-free every day of the year.

Those that do have an admission fee at the entrance gate, like Yosemite National Park, honor the fee-free days each year by welcoming guests with no money required.

The next one after Jan. 16? That's on Presidents Day, and a full four days of admission-less park fun are up in April 2017, in tribute to National Park Week.

And speaking of Yosemite, and other wild-beautiful locations around California... Visitors would be well-advised to check road conditions, and closures, if heading out on Jan. 16. The recent dramatic snowstorms of early January have delivered a wallop to our state's higher elevations, giving them a frosty beauty, and needed precipitation, but, also, making the journey in a bit more of a challenge.

Call ahead, pack a lunch and your hiking boots, and enjoy the peace, solitude, and majesty.

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