PUYALLUP, WA — All national parks will be open, and free, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2021, including Washington's own Mount Rainier National Park.
Observed on Jan. 18 this year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day marks the first free-admission day of the year at all 63 national parks in the United States and its territories, according to the National Park Service.
Most areas of national parks are open regularly during the coronavirus pandemic, but some services or facilities might not be available, the NPS has said in its most recent health update. Visitors are urged to check with the park they plan to visit for specific details.
Free days at national parks are planned on various dates throughout the year.
After MLK Day, National Parks like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park will offer free admission on five dates later in the year: April 17, the first day of National Park Week; Aug. 4, the one-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act; Aug. 25, the National Park Service’s birthday; Sept. 25, National Public Lands Day and Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
National parks are federally reserved open lands across 30 states and two territories, according to National Park Trips, a media service that focuses on the nation’s national parks. California has the most, with nine, followed by Alaska with eight, Utah with five and Colorado with four.
Interestingly, there are no national parks in two of the country’s most populated states, New York and Illinois.
Yellowstone National Park, which covers a three-state territory in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, was the first national park. New River Gorge National Park, in West Virginia, is the newest after a declaration made on Dec. 27, 2020.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, is America’s most visited. In 2019, the park recorded about 12.5 million visitors, according to the NPS. America’s second most visited park that year, the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, had 5.97 million visitors.
Perhaps surprisingly, Olympic National Park actually draws more visitors than Rainier. In 2019, it brought in about 3.2 million visitors — making it the 9th most visited National Park in the country that year.