Each year, our National and State Parks announce a list of fee free days for entry into some of the most beautiful public lands in the world. For many, this provides a first glimpse into the wild and wonderful beauty of our state, helping to entice further adventures into the natural wonderlands surrounding our cities. In 2018, there will be a combination of 12 days with free entry to National Parks and Washington State Parks.

The National Park Service has announced four fee-free days in 2018, down from 10 in 2017. The dates of these free entrance days to our National Parks will be:

  • January 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • April 21 – First Day of National Park Week
  • September 22 – National Public Lands Day
  • November 11 – Veterans Day

Not to be outdone by the National Park’s fee-free days, Washington State Parks are offering eleven fee-free days for park entry, letting you explore the Washington’s 186 state parks. A Discover Pass is not required to visit a state park on these days. The following are the 2018 Washington State Parks free days:

  • Jan. 15 — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • March 19 — State Park’s 105th birthday
  • April 14  — Spring day
  • April 22 — Earth Day
  • June 2 — National Trails Day
  • June 9 — National Get Outdoors Day
  • June 10 — Fishing Day
  • Aug. 25 — National Park Service 102nd Birthday
  • Sept. 22 — National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11 — Veterans Day
  • Nov. 23 — Autumn day

Because there are so many possible destinations and so many fee free days, we thought we would help you make plans for the perfect adventure for each fee-free day. Without further delay, we present Thurston Talk’s suggestions for making the most out of your fee free Park days in 2018.

On January 15, entrance to both National Parks and State Parks will be free. While you may be tempted to hit up a state park, we encourage you to go to Paradise at Mount Rainier for a sledding and snowshoe adventure in the awesome winter wonderland of our most-famous mountain.

Mount Rainier Sledding
The snowplow area at Paradise is second to none, giving all ages a magical time at Rainier. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

March 19 is a fee-free day for only Washington State Parks, as that date celebrates the State Park’s 105th birthday. For this day, we highly recommend taking a trip up the Hood Canal and exploring Dosewallips State Park. Offering miles of trails, as well as views of elk, eagles and even seals, this park is a perfect introduction to the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.

Hood Canal escapes
Dosewallips has great trails, fantastic views and wildlife opportunities. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

April 14 is the next fee-free day, once again only taking place at our State Parks. For this day, we suggest you take a trip to the coast and witness the mass migration of gray whales. Swimming less than a mile from shore, gray whales by the thousands pass closely to Grayland Beach State Park near Westport.

Grayland Beach
With miles of sandy shores, this often windy state park is a great place for a picnic, flying kites and seeing sea life. Photo credit: Washington State Parks 

One week later, on April 21, The National Park Service will have their second fee-free day, celebrating the first day of National Park week. Head to Olympic National Park’s Quinault region. Full of elk, eagles, miles of trails and gorgeous waterfalls, this place is beautiful in the spring and you’ll find the best trails and experiences in the region here. The next day is Earth Day, April 22, which is a fee-free day for Washington State Parks. For this day, we suggest exploring Lake Sylvia State Park just north of Montesano.

Waterfalls, huge trees, rivers, rustic old lodges and miles of trails await you in the Quinault Rainforest of Olympic National Park. Photo credit: Douglas Scott 

On June 2, participate in National Trails Day and hike the often overlooked trails at Tolmie State Park. Located just north of Hawks Prairie, this park has great beaches, miles of trails, incredible birding and a great view of Mount Rainier. The trails might still be a little muddy, but the park is gorgeous.

Tolmie State Park
Overlooked by many, Tolmie State Park is a fun and quiet park for families who want something a bit more wild. Photo credit: Douglas Scott 

On the weekend of June 9 and 10, entrance to State Parks in Washington will be free for National Get Outdoors Day and Fishing Day. We recommend sticking close to town on this date, exploring the trails and the lake at Millersylvania State Park. This is the perfect destination for both, and it is only a few minutes from Olympia.

Millersylvania State Park
Offering fishing locations, miles of trails and stunning nature, make Millersylvania your weekend destination. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

August 25 is the next fee-free day, taking place yet again, in Washington State Parks. Since this is a day during the heat of the summer, we think a paddle adventure to the island park of Hope Island would be perfect. This small island is only accessible by boat and offers trails, beaches and sights of seals and eagles.

Hope Island State Park
Have a boat or kayak? Paddle out to the remote and wonderful Hope Island State Park. Photo credit: Washington State Parks Foundation

On September 22, we get out next fee-free day to our State and National Parks together. On this date, we highly suggest heading to Mount Rainier, once again, and this time exploring the panoramic beauty found at Sunrise. Offering breathtaking views, miles of hiking trails to mountain tops and endless fields of elk and late season wildflowers, Sunrise is early fall is one of the most incredible places in the state. If you can, stay here after sunset at stargaze.

Mount Rainier National Park
Sunrise in the early fall is full of unrivaled beauty and breathtaking views. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

November 11 is the next dual free entry day to State and National Parks. Take a trip to one of each of these parks along the Olympic Peninsula’s Hood Canal. Starting off at Olympic National Park’s Staircase will have you exploring a wild and scenic river, hiking in old forests and exploring true wilderness. Numerous hikes in the region are available for all ages and levels of hikers, and can be found in this guidebook. During the fall, the trail is gorgeous and lined with fallen leaves and mushrooms. After exploring Staircase, end your day by taking in the sights of Washington’s fjord from Potlatch State Park.

Olympic National Park, Staircase
Olympic’s Staircase region is the closest entry to the park from Olympia is is always breathtaking. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Finally, on November 23, the last free entry day to Washington’s State Park’s takes place. Head north to Port Townsend and explore the incredible Fort Worden State Park. With stunning views of Mount Baker, the Salish Sea and old military bunkers to explore, this often overlooked park is the perfect way to end your free adventures in Washington State’s public lands.

Fort Worden State Park
With incredible views and a ton of history, adventurers of all ages will love Fort Worden. Photo credit: Douglas Scott


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