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Can You Buy Private Land In National Parks?

Published on May 15th, 2023 by Lynne Fedorick

Homestead outbuilding with grass in front of red cliffs in Utah
National parks are dotted with private land like this homestead in Utah

Private Property in National Parks: The Basics

Have you ever seen a residence or other types of property in a national park and wondered if you could buy land in a national park? You might have also wondered how it’s even possible to own land in a public park. The fact is, our national parks are dotted with private lands. Furthermore, a whopping 3 percent of the land within national parks is private property.

Across the US, there are currently over 4 million acres of private land for sale in national parks. While you can buy land in a national park, it’s almost always expensive enough to keep it out of the reach of the average property buyer.

Why is there private land in public parks, anyway?

When the US was young, the government needed to build up populations across the country. In an effort to achieve this goal, they granted homesteading rights to anyone who would settle the land. As a result, homesteaders settled, built homes, and raised generations of families in some of the most beautiful places throughout the country.

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As the US established itself as a nation, national parks were formed. The new parks would ensure that the best areas were preserved for citizens to enjoy. However, the homesteaders within the new park boundaries had often inhabited their properties for several generations.

With that being said, their homes were precious to them. After all, they were in the most beautiful areas of the country. For these reasons, property owners were often unwilling to be bought out. That prevented some of the property from being acquired. With that in mind, park officials continued on their quest to reclaim private lands within the park. So whenever a property owner was willing to sell, the government would eagerly buy the property to add to the public area of the surrounding park.


However, like all good things, this would come to an end when the government was faced with a dwindling budget. As a result, the funds that were allocated for buying private lands within parks slowed to a trickle. Their answer to this was to simply skirt the boundaries of the parks around existing private properties, now called inholdings. This resulted in today’s park maps having so many “holes” where inholdings still exist to this day.

After 1964, the government made an effort to buy up inholdings as they came up for sale. This effort meant they bought millions of acres to be used as public space.

However, more recent budget constraints have meant that when land comes up for sale, the government is usually outbid by private interests, including non-profit trust funds. These trust funds buy private land in national parks and turn it over to the parks service, preserving it for public use.

Learn more about buying private land

It’s possible to own private land in a national park and hold it for investment purposes, resell it, or do whatever you want with it. Ownership of land in national parks comes with the same rights as any other private property.

The best way to buy land in a national park is to go through a real estate company like However, there is a good chance you’ll be bidding against a non-profit trust fund to buy it.

One of the best parts about RVing is engaging with the community of traveling enthusiasts. iRV2 forums allow folks to chat with other RVers online, and get other perspectives on everything RVing, including products, destinations, RV mods, and more.

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