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Do you want to visit a WA state park for free? Here are 12 days that you can in 2024

The Columbian
Published: November 27, 2023, 7:41am

TACOMA — Did you miss the 12th and final day of this year to visit one of Washington’s state parks for free? Not to worry: The Washington State Discover Pass Program has announced designated free days for 2024.

Every year, Washington State Parks has 12 Discover Pass free days during which people are able to visit any of the over 140 state parks or lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife for free.

Free days do not apply to Sno-Parks permits, which are available for purchase from November through April.

Below is a list of the Discover Pass free days in 2024:

  • Jan. 1: First Day Hikes and New Year’s Day
  • Jan. 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • March 9: Billy Frank Jr.’s Birthday
  • March 19: State Parks’ 111th Birthday
  • April 22: Earth Day
  • June 8: National Get Outdoors Day
  • June 9: Free Fishing Day
  • June 19: Juneteenth
  • Sept. 28: National Public Lands Day
  • Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day
  • Nov. 11: Veterans Day
  • Nov. 29: Autumn Day

Why are state parks free on specific dates?

Washington state parks are free on New Year’s Day, Billy Frank Jr.’s birthday, Juneteenth, National Public Lands Day and World Mental Health Day, according to the Washington State Parks press release. Here’s why:

  • New Year’s Day, the first free day of 2024, provides people the opportunity to participate in Washington State Parks’ annual First Day Hikes event. First Day Hikes is a national initiative led by America’s State Parks. It encourages people to ring in the new year surrounded by nature. Last year, more than 1,500 participants hiked, biked and snowshoed 2,652.67 trail miles at Washington state parks. Distance and rigor vary from park to park, but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family.
  • Billy Frank Jr. (1931-2014) was an environmental activist and former chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. His lifelong dedication to protecting endangered salmon and restoring justice for the Nisqually Tribe helped shape Washington’s environmental laws and expand treaty rights for Native Americans nationwide.
  • Juneteenth has been celebrated in Black communities since June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. The news reached them two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth became an official federal holiday in 2021.
  • National Public Lands Day was established in 1994 and is held annually on the fourth Saturday in September. It celebrates the connection between people and green spaces in their communities — inspiring environmental stewardship and encouraging the use of open space for education, recreation and health benefits.
  • World Mental Health Day was designated as a free day to acknowledge the power of nature to restore mental health. Studies show time spent in nature boosts serotonin, dopamine and vitamin D and lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, helping our bodies combat stress.

An annual Washington State Discover Pass costs $30 or $35 after added transactions and dealer fees if it is purchased at a license vendor, online or by phone. A one-day pass costs $10 or $11.50 after added transactions and dealer fees if it is purchased at a license vendor, by phone or online. Over 50 Washington state parks have automated pay stations from which visitors can get one-day passes or annual passes. These pay stations accept only credit cards.