Experience U.S. National Parks by Volunteering

Did you know you can volunteer to help out at one of the parks, monuments, seashores, and battlefields operated by the National Park Service? The Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program relies on millions of volunteer hours to staff campgrounds and visitor centers, maintain trails, and run programs for visitors.


Some parks offer free campsites or modest housing for volunteers who agree to stay and work for the entire season. If you would rather not sign up for many hours of free labor, there are still a few ways to enjoy a relatively inexpensive outdoor vacation.

Reserve lodging or campsites early. To stay on park grounds, make reservations at Recreation.gov. The most affordable places to stay inside or outside popular national parks often fill up quickly.

Rent, borrow, or buy used gear. You may not need to spend a lot of money for a new tent, camp stove, lantern, or backpack that you might use only a few times each year. Search garage sales, thrift stores, and the Internet for gently used items, or borrow gear from family and friends.

Buy a pass. For $80 a year, you could enjoy unlimited access to all our nation’s amazing national parks, memorials, and recreation areas. Even better, up to three adults accompanying the passholder in the same vehicle can also enter for free — and kids under 16 never have to pay. For only $10, U.S. citizens and permanent residents aged 62 and older can buy a lifetime America the Beautiful Senior Pass.

Sources: USA Today, March 4, 2014; National Park Service, 2014

The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2015 Emerald Connect, LLC

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