Over the past six months, parks—whether local, state or national—have provided a much needed respite from the monotony of life in the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though we should all continue to follow all public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, time spent while doing so in parks gives us a chance to put on our good sweatpants or shorts, venture out of our homes and spend time in nature.
If you’ve been considering a trip to a national park but were put off by the cost of admission, tomorrow may be your chance to go, because the National Parks Service (NPS) is waiving entrance fees. This is great news, but there is some fine print involved. Here’s what you need to know before packing up the station wagon.
Each year, the NPS announces a list of free entrance days, and this year, that includes tomorrow, August 25, in celebration of the service’s 104th birthday. Back in March, several of the national parks either closed or restricted access to some of their facilities and attractions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Since May, they’ve been slowly reopening in accordance with public health guidelines.
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But at this point, many of these restrictions remain in place. So if you’ve had your heart set on going to the Delaware Water Gap, for example, you should be aware that many of its public facilities—including some restrooms—remain temporarily closed.
There are two ways to find out about the potential closures at your destination of choice. First, check to see if the NPS has issued any active alerts on your par; that page is relatively detailed, but just to be safe, you can also look up the individual park on the NPS website for more information on any closures, restrictions and new regulations. And if you want to go one step further, you can always call the park or historical site you have in mind and talk to someone on the ground there who ca