Which National Park Pass Should You Get for Free Entry?

The U.S. National Park Service invites all American citizens to visit our National Parks. However, did you know that most parks require a hefty entry fee even to just drive through?

However, there’s a way to avoid all that by getting a National Park Pass! Let’s learn how!

America the Beautiful National Park Pass Information by Always On Liberty
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Which National Park Pass Gets You Free Entry?

America the Beautiful Pass Criteria Information

Utah National Park Red Rock Arch

We’ve already been to several National Parks and several National Monuments prior to becoming full-time RVers. We’ve visited them by car and by motorcycle.

Unbeknownst to us, we were unaware there is such a thing as a National Park Pass. We always paid entry admissions because we didn’t have any of the National Park passes. And because of it, we shucked out a lot of cash for entry fees to each National Park we visited. Of course, this was before the internet and learning from awesome informational blogs like ours!

So, we’re going to save a bundle of cash and show you which National Park pass you should get that provides free access into over 2,000 national parks and memorials, wildlife refuges, forests and historical sites as well as federal recreation areas!

Even better, we’ll spell out how some of these America the Beautiful passes offer added benefits that you may not even be aware of.

See, let’s see which National Park pass fits your criteria.

Annual Pass

National Parks America the Beautiful Annual Pass

The National Park America the Beautiful Annual Pass is valid for one full year from month of purchase (through last day of that month).

This pass allows pass owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle to enter Federally operated recreation sites across the country.

The National Park Annual Pass covers the pass owner and three (3) accompanying adults age 16 and older at sites where per person entrance fees are charged. No entry fee charged for children 15 and under.

Lifetime & Annual Senior Pass

National Park Pass America the Beautiful Senior Pass

The National Park America the Beautiful Lifetime Senior Pass is for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over.

There is a one-time charge is $80 for the pass that permits free entrance for life.

The National Park Annual Senior Pass is for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Its valid for one full year from month of purchase (through last day of that month).

The cost of obtaining an Annual Senior Pass through the mail is thirty $30. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship.

✰ BLOGGER NOTE ✰  America the Beautiful Golden Access and Golden Age Passports are no longer sold. However, the National Park Service and federal entities will continue to accept those passes according to the provisions of the pass.

Interagency Military Pass

National Park Military Lifetime Pass for Veterans and Gold Star Family

The Interagency Military National Park Pass is available to Active Duty US military members and the dependents of deployed military in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Space Force, as well as most members of the currently serving U.S. Reserves and National Guard.

Recently, the National Park Service in partnership with Operation Live Well thanks military personnel and their families for their service and extends their invitation to U.S. Military Veterans and Gold Star Families to enjoy their National Parks  for free as well.

A free lifetime Military Pass is available for Gold Star Families and US Military Veterans. A free annual Military Pass is available for current US military members and their dependents. The pass provides free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.

Active Duty Military and Veterans will be required to provide one of the following to receive their Interagency Military Pass:

    • Unexpired Department of Defense Identification Card (DD Form 2, DD Form 2765, or Next Generation USID replacement)
    • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
    • Veterans Administration ID Card (VA)
    • Veterans designation on a state-issued US driver’s license or identification card

✰ RELATED   Blue Star Museums – Free Admission for Military & Their Families

America the Beautiful Gold Star Family Pass

By definition, Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the US Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a qualifying situation, such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the US Armed Forces.

Before visiting a National Park site, qualifying Gold Star Family members must download and print a voucher to present to park staff, exchange for an Interagency Military Lifetime Pass, or place on the vehicle dashboard at unstaffed sites.

Representations of the voucher are prohibited; the physical voucher or pass must be present.

✰ BLOGGER NOTE ✰ For additional details and eligibility requirements, Gold Star Family are visit section 3.2 of Department of Defense Instruction 1348.36

Access Pass

National Park Access Pass - America the Beautiful Access Pass for Disabled

A free, lifetime National Park America the Beautiful Access Pass is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States who are stricken with a permanent medical disability. The disability does not have to be 100%. However, the disability must be permanent. Applicants must provide documentation of permanent disability as well as proof of residency.

Volunteer Pass

National Park Volunteer Pass - America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass

You can accrue 250 hours by volunteering on Federal recreation lands managed by one or all of five agencies; NPS, BLM, USDA FS, FWS, and Reclamation and earn the Volunteer Pass. The America the Beautiful Volunteer National Park Pass is not permanent.

For every 250 volunteer hours, pass hours are reset to zero and term begins again. The National Park Volunteer pass is valid for 12 months from the month of issuance and expires the last day of that month the following year.

4th Grader’s Pass

National Park 4th Grade Pass - America the Beautiful Every Kid in the Park Pass

The National Park 4th Grade Pass allows free admission at sites that charge Entrance or Standard Amenity fees (Day use fees) for one full year (September through August of the student’s 4th grade year).

Only U.S. fourth grade students (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age) with a printed voucher from the Every Kid in a Park website. Be aware, 4th grade students will not receive a pass without a valid voucher.

Mt. Rainier National Park Overhead Entrance Sign by Always On Liberty
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Using your National Park Pass

There are some parks that don’t enlist an entrance fee. However, those that do, the pass holder must present their park pass upon check-in. Be aware, you must have your pass physically on your person.

It’s up to the National Park visitor whether or not they should get a National Park America the Beautiful pass; depending on how many parks they will visit per year.

If you plan on visiting several parks, buying or procuring a pass would be most advantageous financially because park entry fees add up.

Not only will a pass save you money at the entrance gate but also save time not having to wait for your credit card transaction holding up those behind you.

National Park Service parks and lands that charge entry fees are here.

Protect your National Park Pass

Your America the Beautiful pass and entrance into our National Parks, Monuments, Battlefields, Historical Sites and Landmarks is a privilege. Therefore, you should safeguard your National Park pass just as you do your driver’s license or military ID.

Unfortunately you will have to pay for a replacement should you lose your pass. Also, it’s important to report a lost pass to the NPS so they can ensure no one else tries to use it.

We hope this better explains National Park America the Beautiful Pass qualification requirements.

Lastly, though your National Park pass gets you into the parks for free, please consider supporting our National Parks at the visitor center at their donation boxes. Even if it’s just a couple dollars, your worthy donation is appreciated to ensure further progress, cleanliness and operation of our National Parks.

Wrapping Up

Always On Liberty at Joshua Tree National Park
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Our National Parks belong to the American people. It’s only right to enable citizens to enjoy their Parks without breaking the bank. The different National Parks passes have their own criteria. We hope these pass definitions help in finding the right pass for you and your family.

As a side note, if you really don’t want to spend time or money (if applicable) on procuring your America the Beautiful pass, you could still visit our National Parks on designated free days prescribed annually by the U.S. National Park Service at no charge. 

RVing to the National Parks?

If you’re planning on taking your RV to visit our national parks, it’s important to know before you go! By planning ahead of time, your experience will be greater and less stressful.

Anytime we plan our RV destinations, we start our research using RV LIFE Trip Wizard. RV Trip Wizard gets you to your camping destinations utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to your RV and travel preferences.

When we’re scoping out places to camp or park our RV, RV LIFE Campgrounds is a great place to check out camping options near points of interest. Campground Reviews is a trusted source of campground and RV park reviews offered by camping and RV enthusiasts just like you.

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2 Replies to “Which National Park Pass Should You Get for Free Entry?”

    1. Kathy, thanks for reading! We’re glad it helped in finding which pass applies to you. We hope you enjoy all of the National Parks and sites you can. Consider getting the National Park Passport so you can stamp all the places you’ve been to! -Dan & Lisa

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