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On a Budget? Here Are the Cheapest National Parks to Visit in the U.S.

Taking your family on vacation no matter where you go can come with a hefty price tag, so why not choose a national park that won’t break the bank? Prices will vary throughout the season, especially summer, so bear that in mind before booking your trip. Here’s a list of the cheapest U.S. national parks to visit based on entry fees, accommodation, and food as of winter 2023. 

Olympic National Park

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Located two hours away from Seattle, Washington, Olympic National Park is surprisingly a budget-friendly park. Accommodations are pretty reasonable and as far as food goes, you have some budget-friendly options. If you’re doing a day trip, you have the option of bringing your own food from any of the many Seattle grocery stores, or if you’re staying in or near the park you can hit up local grocery stores, such as Grocery Outlet and Safeway.

  • Entrance fee: $30 for a private vehicle and is valid for 7 days.
  • Accommodations: Depending on the location, budget-friendly options could start around $29-120 per night. More exclusive hotels with perks like being very close to the park and on the beach, like the Kalaloch Lodge, are around $230 per night.
  • Food: Budgeting around $15-50 per person per meal is a reasonable estimate.

According to BudgetYourTrip, the estimated trip cost for 1-2 people is around $124 per day in Olympic National Park. These calculations are based on the expenses other visitors report, including their transportation.

Grand Teton National Park

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If you’re looking for an affordable national park to visit, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is a great option. It was ranked #1 in the list of Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S. for 2023 by U.S. News. From the 13,770-foot Grand Teton to the Jackson Lakes, Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is a paradise for photographers and hikers alike. Trails cater to all skill levels, with hidden waterfalls and stunning views of the Tetons. The Snake River attracts kayakers and rafters, while historic districts like Menors Ferry and Mormon Row are great stops for history buffs. The 500 square miles is home to diverse wildlife, including black bears, grizzlies, moose, antelope, and bison. For those looking to hit two parks on their trip, Yellowstone National Park is just a few miles north, so you can get two parks for one price.

  • Entrance Fee: $35 for a private vehicle, and is valid for 7 days.
  • Accommodation: $70-$150 per night
  • Food: restaurants can be pricey in Grand Teton, going as high as $120 per person for fancy eats. Luckily, there are still affordable options for around $15-30 per person

BudgetYourTravel estimated you should plan to spend around $162 per day on your vacation in Grand Teton National Park including food, accommodations, and getting around.

Glacier National Park

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Straddling the Canada-Montana border, this amazing park earned its name from the remnants of ancient glaciers and is called the “Crown of the Continent.” A paradise for hikers, it has trails for all levels, from the easy Trail of the Cedars to the challenging Grinnell Glacier hike. The park covers more than 1 million acres, with 700 lakes, waterfalls, and two mountain ranges. This park has the unforgettable Going-to-the-Sun Road and historic lodges and chalets constructed by the Great Northern Railway in the early 20th century. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it forms the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

  • Entrance Fees: $25-35 depending on the time of year, it is more expensive in summer. The pass is valid for seven days.
  • Accommodations: camping can be as cheap as $20-$30 per night and hotels range from $75-$300 depending on the quality
  • Food: Dining costs will depend on your choices. Simple restaurants or packed meals could be as cheap as $20 per day while dining at more upscale establishments might increase the daily budget to around $30-$50 per person.

BudgetYourTravel estimates you should plan to spend around $127 per day in Glacier National Park. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

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Sequoia National Park is home to some of the world’s tallest trees. About 80 miles east of Fresno, California, in the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, it became America’s second national park in 1890, dedicated to protecting giant trees from logging. Linked with Kings Canyon National Park in 1940, both parks have the General Sherman Tree standing out as the world’s largest (275 feet tall, with a base over 36 feet in diameter). There’s so much to do including exploring caves, hiking, and snowshoeing. Open year-round, each season has its own charm.

  • Entrance Fee: The fee for a private vehicle is $35 and is valid for 7 days.
  • Accommodations: Lodging within or near the parks can range from budget options like campgrounds (around $20-30 per night) to mid-range hotels or lodges (ranging from $100-200 or more per night).
  • Food: Dining costs will depend on your choices. Casual dining or self-prepared meals could cost around $20-40 per day while dining at more upscale establishments might increase the cost.

BudgetYourTravel estimates you should plan to spend around $130 per day on a visit to Sequoia National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Definitely the cheapest national park on this list, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the world. From incredible hiking, like Clingman’s Dome, to wild deer sightings, to endless views of rolling mountains and hills, this national park won’t break the budget and will be one of your favorites. Straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, enjoy historic Gatlinburg or stay in Pigeon Forge, but don’t forget to check out Cades Cove.

  • Entrance Fee: None, but there is a $5 parking fee.
  • Accommodation: Prices can vary widely, but budget-friendly options in nearby towns could start around $50-100 per night. If you’re willing to drive, two-star hotels offer the lower end of the scale, and camping costs around $20 a night.
  • Food: If you go for relatively cheap options it ranges from $15-$30 per person per meal

It’s definitely possible to spend less than $100 per day in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it the most budget-friendly park on this list.

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