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Today you can visit Yosemite and other national parks for free

Yosemite Falls is reflected in a partially flooded meadow. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

If you’ve never seen the granite face of Half Dome or the rushing waters of Yosemite Falls, now’s your chance.

National Parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands will be open to the public for free Friday. The U.S. Department of the Interior is waiving entrance fees to mark the three-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a law passed in 2020 that allocated millions for conservation and improvements to national parks. 

Overnight camping, cabin rentals and group-use day fees will remain in effect. 

The “Fee-Free Day” may come with a catch for those heading to popular destinations like Yosemite National Park. Recent visitors have been forced to sit in hourslong traffic jams along with thousands of others hoping to see Yosemite’s world-famous waterfalls, which are gushing following last winter’s record-breaking rain and snowfall. For the first year since the pandemic, visitors to Yosemite no longer need reservations, which has added to the crush.

Aims of the 2020 federal parks law include improving visitor experiences as well as bolstering climate resilience. It allocates $1.6 billion a year to pay for deferred maintenance and repairs on public lands, with 276 projects across the country funded to date, according to a press release from the Department of the Interior. 

To spotlight those changes, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland plans to visit Yosemite “to see first-hand how GAOA funding has helped bolster critical water, electrical, camping and housing infrastructure across the park,” she said in a statement. 

The legislation is also supposed to help boost the economy by creating jobs in national parks.

According to the government, projects resulting from the legislation have supported an average of 17,000 jobs and generated an average of $1.8 billion for local economies annually since 2021.