Which National Park Pass Should You Get?

Prior to becoming full-time RVers, we’ve already been to several National Parks and several National Monuments. But we always paid entry admissions because we didn’t have any of the National Park passes.

Why? Because we had no idea they even existed.

So, we’ll show you which National Park pass to get to provide free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and historical sites.

But, some of these America the Beautiful passes offer some added benefits that you may not even be aware of.

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

America the Beautiful National Park Pass - Always On Liberty

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Which National Park Pass Should You Get?

America the Beautiful Passes

Utah National Parks - Always On Liberty

The U.S. National Park Service invites all American citizens to visit any of the U.S. National Parks.

However, while most National Parks require an admission fee, they offer different National Park pass structures to pay reduced fees or even free entry to explore the park.

These America the Beautiful park passes also grants entry into any U.S. National Monument, National Historic Park, National Battlefield, National Wildlife Refuge or Preserve.

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 Parks 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.

✰ PRO TIP   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 and Gold Star Family Pass

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 Current US 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)
    • Veteran ID Card
    • Veterans designation on a state-issued US driver’s license or identification card

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.

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

Before visiting a National Park site, 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.

✰ PRO TIP ✰  For more information about how to obtain passes at: https://www.nps.gov/…/veterans-and-gold-star-families.

Access Pass

National Parks America the Beautiful Access Pass for Disabled

A free, lifetimeNational Park America the Beautiful 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 but 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

National Parks 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 Parks America the Beautiful 4th Grade 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 may not receive a pass without a valid voucher.

Mt. Rainier National Park Entrance - 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 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 National Park America the Beautiful 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 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 parks pass just as you do your driver’s license or military ID.

If you lose your National Parks pass, you will have to pay for a replacement. But it’s important to report your lost pass to the NPS so they can ensure no one else uses it.

We hope this better explains what each National Park America the Beautiful Pass is and qualification requirements.

And lastly, we highly encourage supporting our National Parks at the visitor center donation box.

Even if it’s just a couple dollars, your worthy donation is appreciated to ensure further progress of our National Parks.

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Final thoughts on which National Park pass is best for you

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 the Parks. 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.

How to plan your trip to your National Parks!

If you’re planning on taking your RV, 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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More to read about our National Parks

32 Best National Park Visitor Tips

Best Time to Visit America’s Most Popular National Parks

National Park Board Games for All Ages

What You Need to Know about Riding E-bikes in National Parks

Trashing our National Parks and Public Lands

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2 Replies to “Which National Park Pass Should You 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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