(CNN) — The US National Park Service is back with its offer of five days a year when the entrance fees are waived at every site under its domain in the country. That includes all 63 national parks and more than 420 places in total.

The first free day is coming up on Monday, January 16, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

But given how popular the parks have become, it might be a good idea to plan early, arrive early and check online for potential timed entries on the free days. That’s especially true for the most popular parks with comfortable temperatures in January.

For instance, visitation to Big Bend is up 50% since 2016, according to the NPS. Its primary visitor season is October through April. You don’t want to head out on the free day and be flummoxed by long lines.
Check this link for possible closures before you head out for a trip or search for the specific site online.

Other free days in 2023

Can’t make it for MLK Day? The other four free entrance dates are scattered throughout the seasons and the calendar:

“National parks are really amazing places and we want everyone to experience them,” said  National Park Service Director Chuck Sams in the NPS news release about the free days.

“The entrance fee-free days encourage people to discover the beauty, history and inspiration awaiting them in more than 400 national parks throughout the country.”

The entrance fee waiver won’t cover fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours.

Many parks are free all year

An alligator swims at Everglades National Park in Florida.

RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

NPS said that most national park sites do not have entrance fees at all. Out of the 423 national park sites, only 108 have admission fees that range from $5 to $35.

And some groups of people can also get free passes or get discounts all year:

• US military members and their dependents, US veterans and Gold Star families
• Fourth grade students
• Disabled citizens
• Senior citizens

Top image: Early morning view along the Rio Grande looking towards Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park in Texas. (Tim Speer/iStock/Getty Images)

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