These 8 States Have Free Entry to State Parks

National parks get a lot of attention, but in many regions of the U.S., state parks are equally as beautiful. From quiet lakefront beaches to historic sites to coastal dunes, state parks offer  experiences that are always worth the journey.

While most state park systems charge a day-use entrance fee to help offset the costs of the park’s management and maintenance, some states keep the experience free for all. Here are eight states that have free day-entry to their state parks.

a campsite with a picnic table next to the water surrounded by pine trees
Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas. | Photo by Kelly

Arkansas

There are no entry fees at Arkansas state parks, with the exception of parks that require a tour to access the facility, like Crater of Diamonds Mine State Park. However, fees are charged for activities like camping, guided experiences, and special events.

Where to Camp

Dozens of state parks in Arkansas offer on-site camping, including the Campendium community favorites of Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton, Bull Shoals-White River State Park in Lakeview, and Village Creek State Park in Wynne.

a silver truck with a tear drop trailer is parked at a campground
Lincoln Trail State Park, Illinois. | Photo by Eddie

Illinois

Enjoy 309 state parks and recreational sites for free in Illinois. Parks are managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which doesn’t charge an entrance fee on state-owned or operated land. The exception? If the park has a beach, there’s a $1 per-day, per-person charge for beach use.

Where to Camp

While visiting Illinois state parks, check out the camping at five-star reviewed campgrounds at Lincoln Trail State Park in Marshall, Beaver Dam State Park in Plainview, and Nauvoo State Park in Nauvoo. 

Clear Lake State Park, Iowa
Clear Lake State Park, Iowa. | Photo by ColoradoNittany

Iowa

Most of Iowa’s state park system doesn’t charge entrance fees for resident and non-resident visitors. Two popular parks, Lake Manawa and Waubonsie, have a $5 entrance fee for non-residents only. The non-resident charge is part of a pilot program implemented to handle overuse issues at the parks.

Where to Camp

Rest your head for the night in an Iowa state park at one of these popular campgrounds: Prairie Rose State Park in Harlan, Ledges State Park in Madrid, and Clear Lake State Park in Clear Lake.

a campground with rvs parked under the trees
My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky. | Photo by Campendium

Kentucky 

Entrance to Kentucky’s 45 state parks is free of charge to all visitors. Kentucky’s most well-known and beloved state parks include My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, and Green River Lake State Park.

Where to Camp

The Bluegrass State has a number of state park campgrounds within its borders, including at Paintsville Lake State Park in Staffordsville, Yatesville Lake State Park in Louisa, and My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

a pickup truck tows a trailer at a campground with fall foliage
Arrow Rock State Historic Site, Missouri. | Photo by David H

Missouri

Missouri’s state park system offers more than 160,000 public acres for activities, and entrance to all state parks is free of charge. Park locations include places of natural and scenic beauty, Civil War battlefields and other historic sites, and the longest developed rail-to-trail system in the U.S.

Where to Camp

Five-star state park camping awaits in Missouri at Bennett Spring State Park in Lebanon, Arrow Rock State Historic Site in Arrow Rock, and Montauk State Park in Salem.

an overhead shot of a campground with rvs parked at sites surrounded by trees
Salt Fork Lake State Park, Ohio. | Photo by BuckeyeCruisers

Ohio

Bask in the beauty of Ohio’s state parks, neither of which charges an entrance fee. Park day-use facilities, which include trails, beaches, picnic areas, and boating and fishing areas, are free for all to use. Like most other state park systems, there are fees for activities such as camping and golfing.

Where to Camp

Ohio manages 57 state park campgrounds. Some of the Campendium community’s favorites include Maumee Bay State Park in the town of Oregon, Salt Fork State Park in Lore City, and Hook Lake Campground in McConnelsville. 

five people walk by a waterfall surrounded by greenery
Raymond B. Winters State Park, Pennsylvania. | Photo by Richard

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania offers free entrance to each of its 121 state parks. Head to the Keystone State to check out the hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, camping, and picnicking available.

Where to Camp

Settle into a night of quiet relaxation at one of these top-rated state park campgrounds in Pennsylvania: Raymond B. Winter State Park in Mifflinburg, French Creek State Park in Elverson, and Codorus State Park in Hanover.

a chair sits by a body of water surrounded by greenery
Chickasaw State Park Campground, Tennessee. | Photo by Barbara L

Tennessee

Tennessee’s state parks are open year-round and entrance is free; however, there may be permits or reservations required for activities within the parks.

Where to Camp

Check out the Tennessee state park campgrounds at Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Lebanon, Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, and Chickasaw State Park in Henderson.


For affordable fun in the outdoors this summer, consider heading to one of these eight states that offer free entry to their state parks.