Which National Park Pass Should I Get?

There are several different National Park Service passes that enable admittance to not only the National Parks, but National Monuments, National Historic Parks, National Battlefields and other National facilities such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Preserves as well.

Our purpose of the sharing this blog is to provide information that we didn’t have nor research and to save you some bucks.

About the America the Beautiful passes…

Annual Pass

The 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. It 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 and Annual Senior Pass

The 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 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 a Senior Pass through the mail is thirty $30. $20  for the Senior Pass and $10 covers the processing the application. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship.

Special Note: Golden Access and Golden Age Passports are no longer sold. However, these passes will continue to be honored according to the provisions of the pass.

Active Duty Military Pass

The Active Duty Military National Park Pass is available to Current US military members and the dependents of deployed military in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, as well as most members of the Current US Reserves and National Guard. Proper military ID is required (CAC Card or DoD Form 1173).

Access Pass

A free, lifetime Access Pass is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States and have a permanent medical disability (does not have to be a 100% disability and must have proper documentation). The cost of obtaining an Access Pass through the USGS currently is $10 for processing the application. Applicants must provide documentation proof of residency and documentation of permanent disability.

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 Volunteer National Park Pass is not permanent. As the Volunteer reaches the 250 hour requirement, the Volunteer will receive a pass, the volunteer’s pass hours are reset to zero and the count begins again. The pass is valid for 12 months from the month of issuance and expires the last day of that month.

Fourth Grade Pass

The Fourth 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. Students may not receive a pass without a valid voucher.

Using your Pass

There are some parks that don’t enlist an entrance fee. However, those that do, the pass holder must present their pass upon check-in. National Park Service parks and lands that do charge can be seen here.

It’s up to the National Park visitor whether or not they should get a pass; depending on how many they will visit per year. But, if you plan on visiting several, buying or procuring a pass would be most advantageous financially. It would save time at the entrance gate not having to fumble for cash or wait for your credit card transaction which holds up those behind you.

Protect your pass…

Your pass and entrance into our National Parks, Monuments, Battlefields, Historical Sites and Landmarks is a privilege. If you lose your National Park pass, you will be have to pay for a new one. It would be a good idea to report your lost pass to the NPS so they can alleviate fraud or illegal entrance.

We hope this better explains what each National Park Pass is and who qualifies. However, even if you do have a pass, we encourage supporting our National Parks through a donation which is usually in the visitors center.

Click for more information on the National Park Service Passes.

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2 Replies to “Which National Park Pass Should I Get?”

    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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