Here in the United States, we have beautiful National Parks.
I’m sure they have beautiful parks in other parts of the world, too, but seeing as I don’t have to cross an ocean to get to those parks, I’m pretty partial to the ones here. They’re beautiful, and they have parks for nearly everything you could want: hiking, biking, camping, even parks for horseback rising, swimming, and ATVs. But, if you pay to enter each park individually, you’ll wind up paying a small fortune in entrance fees.
After all, park entrance fees range from $5/person to $20/person, and that doesn’t include the fees for camping sites with water and electricity. Go 6 times a year and you could pay as much as $240 in park entrance fees, just to enjoy our National Parks.
One great way around all of those fees is an annual National Parks Pass. They can be purchased for $80 – and could pay for themselves in as little as 4 trips. If you love the outdoors and plan on taking several National Parks trips, you should definitely consider purchasing one for your family.
Don’t want to shell out $80? Maybe you don’t have to. Here are 4 different ways to save money on an annual National Parks Pass:
Are You A Senior Citizen?
If you are 62 or older you can get a lifetimes National Parks Pass for only $10 if you visit a a Federal Recreation Site and do the paperwork to receive your pass in person. You can also choose to apply for the pass via the mail, which will cost you $20: $10 for the National Parks Pass and $10 for application processing.
The Senior Citizen Lifetime National Parks Pass also provides a 50% discount on some amenity fees such as:
- Boat Launching
For more information, see FAQ’s Regarding Senior Citizen Pass
Are You Active Duty Military?
If you are an active-duty member of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Cost-Guard or a dependent of someone who is, or a National Guardsman or Reservist, you can get an Annual National Parks pass absolutely free. You do have to visit a Federal Recreation Site in person to get yours, and need to show you CaC (Common Access Card) or Military ID (Form 1173). There is no fee. Just show up, bring you ID, fill out the application, and walk out with a completely free National Parks Pass.
For more information, see FAQ’s regarding Active Duty Military Pass
Do You Have A Disability?
If you have a permanent disability you can get a free Annual National Parks pass by visiting a Federal Recreation Site in person or by completing the application through the mail. There is no processing fee for obtaining the pass in person, but if you choose to apply through the mail, a $10 processing fee applies. The pass is still free, though. You will have to provide documentation proving your disability, or residency or citizenship.
The pass also provides a 50% discount on some services and amenities:
- Boat Launching
For more information, see FAQ’s about Interagency Access Pass
Do You Volunteer?
If you participate in the Interagency Pass Program and have 250 or more hours of volunteer work, you can also get a free Annual National Parks Pass. There are many agencies that participate in the program, including:
- National Park Service
- US Forest Service
- US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Bureau of Land Management
- Bureau of Reclaimation
For more information, visit Volunteer.gov
While the Annual National Parks pass is free or very cheap for most people, you should be aware that camping within the park is not necessarily free. Sure, you can hike and camp to your heart’s content for free, but if you want a “campsite” that is clearly laid out with gravel, water, electric, and bath houses, you will generally pay a fee, so make sure to factor that into your budget. If you’re good going without water and electricity, then just make sure to follow the guidelines established by that particular location.
Do you purchase an Annual National Parks Pass? How do you save money on your pass?
Til Next Time,