It’s the pass that gets you into every U.S. National Park (and more cool sites ) as many times as you want in a year — and it costs $80. So is it worth it?
Keep reading below for an overview of how the pass works!
About the Pass: Part of the Interagency Pass Program, the America the Beautiful Pass is an annual pass (valid for 365 days) that allows its owner to access any National Park in the U.S, with no limits on the number of times you visit, or the number of places you visit in the year. In addition to the National Parks, pass holders also have access to and use of sites managed by the five other agencies that participate in the program: the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the USDA Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Think sites like the White Sands National Monument and Red Rock Canyon! It covers all entrance fees for a single passenger vehicle and its passengers (up to 4 passengers where park charge per-person fees). Up to two people may put their names on a pass, so it’s great for families or friends to share.
Are there any discounts? Yes! While the traditional pass costs $80, special discounts are offered for seniors age 62 and older. Seniors can purchase a $20 annual pass, or an $80 lifetime pass. If you’re a current U.S. Military Member, a 4th grade student, a volunteer at one of these federal reclamation sites, or a person with a permanent disability, you qualify for a FREE pass!*
Where does my money go? Almost 100% of the funds generated from pass sales go towards habitat restoration within the parks, community education opportunities, and upkeep/maintenance of necessary park facilities. So you can feel confident knowing the money you spend on a pass will be used in ongoing efforts to preserve the health and beauty of our country’s parks and lands.
Pros & Cons: The pros here are obvious.
- It’s a one-time fee for unlimited access to National Parks and other recreation areas. No pesky entrance fees every time you roll up to the entrance station!
- TWO people can add their names — it’s like two passes for the price of one. You don’t even have to be related or married to the other person using the pass.
- You now have a reason to visit the National Parks. Because you spent money on a pass. And the National Parks are so cool. Yay!!
Although this pass is an awesome deal, there are some cons.
- There’s no real “index” of passes sold. In other words, if you lose your pass, there’s no way you can get a replacement. Or if you forget your pass at home, there’s no way they can look up your information at the entrance station, meaning you’re stuck paying an entrance fee.
- You can’t get your hands on a lifetime pass unless you’re a senior, and if you’re not a military member or a 4th grader, you have to keep purchasing a pass every year. But hey, at least your money is going towards a good cause!
The Verdict: YES!! This pass is so worth it if you plan to be fairly active in visiting any of the National Parks or sites in your area that accept the pass. The entrance fee for a single day in the Grand Canyon would cost you $35 without it. So if you visit 2 or more days, or if you visit 2 or more parks in 365 days, you’ve almost paid for the pass. I’ve purchased this pass two years running for my National Parks trips, and am so glad I had a single, all-encompassing pass. As long as you’re organized and can keep track of it, you won’t regret purchasing one!
So where can I purchase a pass? If you want to purchase a pass in person, you can find them at any of these sites. If you want to order online, simply head to the USGS store. Or, if you’re feeling brave and want to order via phone, you can call 888-ASK USGS (1-888-275-8747), extension 3.
When you order, you get the pass itself, an informative brochure, and a hangtag for hanging the pass on your rearview when you’re in a park,
So get out there and get yourself a pass already!
*Certain qualifications required. See the NPS site for additional info.