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Get free entry to all US national park sites on Thursday

CBS News Live
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WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CNN) -- National parks have been called "America's best idea," and on Thursday, they could end up being America's best bargain.

Aug. 4 marks another free entry day to all National Park Service sites that usually charge an entrance fee.

This free day is in celebration of The Great American Outdoors Act.

It passed in 2020 and "improves infrastructure and expanding recreation opportunities in national parks and other public lands," according to the National Park Service.

So what's free?

All entrance fees. That includes not only those marquee national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite but all other types of sites the NPS manages:

• National battlefields such as Antietam in Maryland
• National historic sites such as the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey
• National monuments such as Devils Tower in Wyoming
• National seashores such as Assateague Island in Virginia and Maryland
• National preserves such as Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho

Click here for a full listing of every NPS site, which it calls "units."

Most NPS sites are free all year anyway. Only 108 charge a fee. And as you'd suspect, it's the big names that ask you to pay to enter: Places such as Arches in Utah, Rocky Mountain in Colorado and Shenandoah in Virginia.

But they're all free this Thursday.

One catch: "The entrance fee waiver for fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation or special tours," the NPS says.

Planning pays off

If you're not much of a planner, it might be a good idea to develop the habit -- particularly if you want to see a popular NPS site on a free day.

Of those 420+ sites in the National Park System, the top 25 got more than half of the system's total number of visits last year. Some parks set all-time records for visitors in 2021.

Extra fees, advanced reservations, special passes, lotteries and caps on the number of visitors are all in play in 2022.

If you have a particular site you wish to visit, check its website first. For instance, some major roads were closed at Mojave National Preserve in California because of flood damage (yes, desert regions can get flood damage, too).

Missed out on this free day? There will be two more free days in 2022: Saturday, September 24, and Friday, November 11 (Veterans Day).

(The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.)

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