Yes, it’s true—Washington State Parks offer more than a dozen days when admission is free, no Discover Pass required. On these days, you can park at any of the 100 Washington State Parks for free, and enjoy the park’s hiking trails, playground, beach, picnic benches, and interpretive trails for day use.
While you might think the free days fall on common national holidays, they don’t always do so. In Washington State, we always do things a little differently. That’s why it pays to put these dates on the calendar in advance, so you won’t forget and can plan to visit parks in advance.
Washington State Park Free Days: Winter
Washington State winters can be a little bleak, especially in the Western half. However, as the Brits say—there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad attire. So pull on the rainboots and wool sweaters and get out to these Washington State Parks. Or drive over the Cascade mountains for very cold but often-sunny state parks.
Sunday, January 1, 2023: First Day Hikes; New Year’s Day
At more than 40 Washington State Parks, rangers lead visitors on First Day Hikes. Despite the name, these excursions include snowshoe treks and bike rides too. Read more about First Day Hikes on the Washington State Parks website.
Monday, January 16, 2023: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Celebrating the legacy of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thursday, March 9, 2023: Billy Frank Junior’s Birthday
You may not (yet) have heard of environmental activist Billy Frank, Jr. (1931-2014). Frank dedicated his life to protecting endangered salmon, boosting Native American treaty rights and Washington environmental laws.
Sunday, March 19: State Parks’ 110th Birthday
Yes, it’s the birthday of Washington State Parks. Watch for events and activities to be announced.
Washington State Park Free Days: Spring
Three of the following free days fall in late spring, which is historically a beautiful time in Washington. Note the two-day free access to Washington State Parks for free fishing weekend, a great time to pick up a reel and fly if you haven’t tried fishing with kids before.
Saturday, April 22, 2023: Earth Day
Traditionally, Washington State Parks encourages visitors to state parks with various Earth Day programs. You might get your hands dirty with an invasive-plant removal work party, or enjoy a native plant hikes and wildflower walks with a guide. Many kids’ activities occur on Earth Day.
Saturday, June 10, 2023: National Get Outdoors Day
National Get Outdoors Day was first started by the U.S. Forest Service. But Washington State Parks encourage visiting the Washington’s deserts, grasslands, and mountains on this day too.
Sunday, June 11, 2023: Free Fishing Day
If you notice, Free Fishing Day occurs right after National Get Outdoors Day, in Washington State. That’s intentional—that weekend of June 10-11, 2023 is Free Fishing Weekend in Washington. Anyone can fish in Washington, no license required. And without a Discover Pass, the entire fishing experience is much less expensive.
Washington State Park Free Days: Summer
Only one free day in summer, but summer is incredibly busy and popular time to visit Washington State parks, particularly for hikers in Western Washington, and water-lovers in Eastern Washington.
Monday, June 19, 2023: Juneteenth
Free access to Washington State Parks commemorating Juneteenth, a day of historic emancipation for enslaved people in the U.S. It’s also the only free Washington State Park day in summer, without Discover Pass requirements.
Washington State Park Free Days: Fall
Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Washington State Parks, with leaves holding onto trees until mid-October or so, greatly reduced crowds, and uncrowded trails and paths for families and others.
Saturday, September 23, 2023: National Public Lands Day
This day is led by the National Parks Service, and encourages park-goers to volunteer to restore public lands. Free access, but maybe do a bit of volunteer work, too.
Tuesday, October 10, 2023: World Mental Health Day
Started by the World Health Organization, World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness and encourage mental health as a global priority. A walk in a local Washington State park is always good for mental health, particularly on a weekday.
Saturday, November 11, 2023: Veterans Day
Veterans Day welcomes U.S. military veterans and everyone else for free access to Washington State Parks. Note: Disabled veterans are eligible for a lifetime pass with free Washington State Park access, free boat launch, and no reservation fees, among other benefits. Discover more about the Lifetime Disabled Veteran Pass.
Saturday, November 25, 2023: Autumn Day
OK, people, I’m at a loss on this one. The first day of Autumn is in September, but apparently we celebrate it in November in Washington State. Or maybe it’s just a super-autumnal day. Or it’s because it was Thanksgiving day weekend (November 23, 2022) but is now Autumn Day. I have no idea and can’t seem to find any information on it. But there used to be a “Springtime Free Day” in the past.
In the past, Washington State Parks free days had Girls Scouts Love State Parks Day, National Trails Day, National Park Service Birthday among others. Basically, the state legislature requires 12 days of free access to Washington State Parks, and the names and dates might change a bit.
FAQ About Washington State Free Days
Can I camp for free in Washington State Parks?
In Washington’s state parks, the word “free day” only applies to day use. If you want to stay overnight, you’ll still need to get a permit and/or make a reservation.
Are Washington State Sno-Parks free on Washington State Free Days?
No, Washington State Parks free days do not apply to Washington State Sno-Parks during winter season (November through April). Sno-Park visitors need special Sno-Park permits, which you can buy online or from approved vendors. Read more about winter recreation requirements, including Sno-Park passes.
Can I get into National Parks on Washington State Parks Free Days?
No, this only applies to Washington State Parks, not national parks (which have their own free days) like Mt. Rainier National Park or Olympic National Park. However, on Washington State Parks Free Days you can go to Washington State Departments of Natural Resources and Washington State Fish & Wildlife lands for free, as well.
How much Is a Washington State Parks Permit?
The Discover Pass gets you into Washington State Parks for one year, and is often available when renewing your Washington license tabs. This permit costs $30 to $35 annually. If you pay at the park for a one-day visit, costs range from $10 to $11.50. A Washington State Parks permit is a cost-effective solution. Or visiting on a Washington State Parks free day.