Buy a US National Parks Pass: Yes, It’s a Good Deal

If you’re planning a US National Park vacation, be sure to learn about the park pass: the cost, how it saves money, and where you can buy the pass.

We get a US National Park Pass each year, and feel it is a terrific deal! Using the pass you’ll get discounts on admission fees and camping fees at hundreds of parks across the country, as well as special perks like free boat launches and educational programs.

USA National Parks annual pass

The US National Park Pass is a great way to save money while experiencing all that America’s national parks have to offer.

Buying the America the Beautiful pass also helps support the beautiful natural resources and helps preserve the land for future generations.

Check out the National Park Planner that includes blank packing list, daily itinerary, expense log, and photo spots pages to help you organize your vacation! Simply click on the image below to grab your free copy!

US National Park Travel Planner

What is the US National Parks Pass?

The America the Beautiful pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

New in 2024, all passes will now have only one signature line for a single passholder. Passes are non-transferable to another person.

Each pass covers entrance fees, standard amenity fees and day use fees for the passholder and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas, or the passholder and up to three adults at sites that charge per person. Adults are 16 and over, children 15 and under are free.

Passholders must show valid photo identification with each pass.

It can be confusing to know which sites are National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests and Wildlife Refuges that are covered by the pass. The pass is not accepted at State Parks and privately-owned sites. Research each site to be prepared.

woman holding a US National Park Pass
National Park annual pass

How Much Does the National Parks Annual Pass Cost?

The America the Beautiful Annual Pass costs $80 and is valid for one year from the date of purchase. For the most current information on passes, reference the National Park Service website.

The America the Beautiful pass is available to all US citizens and international visitors.

If you’re a US citizen these other passes are also available: 

Military Annual Pass – This free pass is available for current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, Space Force as well as Reserve and National Guard members. 

Military Lifetime Pass – This free pass is available for Gold Star Families with a valid Gold Star Family Voucher and to US military veterans with a valid veteran ID.

4th Grade Pass – This free pass is available for  U.S. 4th graders including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age. The pass is valid for the duration of the 4th grader’s school year through the following summer, September to August. Get more information at the Every Kid Outdoors website.

Senior Pass – There are two passes available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of age and residency or citizenship. The Lifetime Senior Pass is $80 and the Annual Senior Pass is $20.

Access Pass – This free lifetime pass is available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of permanent disability and residency or citizenship. 

Volunteer Pass – This free annual pass is available for volunteers with 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program. Contact your volunteer coordinator for more information.

Thor's Hammer at Bryce Canyon National Park
Thor’s Hammer at Bryce Canyon

Where Can I Buy a US National Parks Pass

You can purchase the pass in a few ways:

In person: pick up the pass at any federal recreation site: list of federal recreation sites that issue National Park passes

Online: Buy from the USGS store. Processing and shipping fees will be charged for online orders. Allow at least three weeks for order processing and delivery.

REI online: you can only get the regular American the Beautiful pass, but there are three reasons for buying your national park pass through REI.

  • REI will donate 10% of sale proceeds to the National Park Foundation
  • You can use REI gift cards to buy the annual America the Beautiful pass
  • The purchase will go toward your REI annual member dividend.
REI annual park pass
Buying the pass from REI benefits the National Park Foundation

Will the National Parks Pass Save Me Money?

There are definite cost-savings using the America the Beautiful Annual Pass if you plan to visit multiple national parks within a year of purchase.

You must ‘do the math’ to determine if the pass will save you money based on the locations you plan to visit for the year.

The pricing structure in the National Parks is variable. Each one charges different rates and there’s a mixture of charging by person or by vehicle. If you plan to visit the most famous and pricey parks, the fees can add up quickly.

But if your plans only include the smaller parks or visiting more National Forests which are often free, it might not be worth it.

Grand Teton National Park in the fall
Grand Teton National Park in the fall

Why We Buy the America the Beautiful Pass Each Year

Support a Good Cause – Even if we don’t save money or break even one year, we feel good that our donation is helping the National Park Service.  Public support is a critical component in the management of National Park Service lands. No other federal agency relies as heavily on the generosity and kindness of its visitors, volunteers, and donors. 

Adventure & Photography – The beauty of the parks and forests beckon to those who like to explore, hike and photograph. National parks offer stunning scenery, hiking trails for all levels and opportunities to see wildlife. There is a reason it’s called the AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL pass. 

Proximity – Living in Utah, we have a definite advantage being close to so many parks. There are 5 Utah National Parks within 4 hours which makes it easy to do a weekend trip. Others are only a day’s drive thus eliminating an expensive airline ticket to visit those parks. We can visit the close parks multiple times during the year, and plan a few longer trips to those farther away in the same year. We will have visited various National Parks 6 times this year. That makes buying the annual pass worth it for sure.

Here are a few lists to help you plan a future trip:

National Parks passes
National Parks passes

National Park Free Entrance Days Will Save You Money

If you still aren’t convinced that a National Parks pass is for you, take advantage of the National Park Service Free Entrance Days offered each year. 

The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

The National Park Service provides a list of parks by state that waive their entrance fees on the nationally designated Fee Free Dates. 

Check with each park for operating hours and event schedules. Fee Free Days make national parks accessible to more people. However, focusing a vacation around national parks is always an economical plan, especially with the National Park Pass, versus other travel destinations.

Half Dome at Yosemite
Half Dome at Yosemite

Buy the American the Beautiful Pass: It’s Worth It!

  • It only costs $80 – it’s the best adventure deal anywhere!
  • It covers all passengers in a personal vehicle.
  • It is valid for one year from date of purchase.
  • It covers entrance fees to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

If purchasing the pass doesn’t save money in the end, you can feel good knowing you have made a donation to the National Park Service. 


national park guides and maps

National Parks Packing List

Use our US National Park Packing List  to make sure you have the right clothing and gear for visiting any time of year! Grab your free printable packing checklist by clicking the image below!

National Parks packing list for spring summer fall and winter
us national parks pass

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  1. The national parks pass really isn’t that good of a deal because of the “Concessionaire” clause. 90 percent of the national parks have a concessionaire that will charge you for parking regardless if you have the pass or not. If you didn’t have a pass and we’re paying the regular fees to get in it would include parking so you’re paying to get into the park anyway even after paying for the pass.

  2. We are determined to get this pass and explore all the national parks soon! Your pictures are fantastic, would love to visit ourselves 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love being outdoors. If I lived in the US, I would definitely get this pass. You have so many beautiful national parks and this gives you the freedom to explore them. What a great concept!

  4. $80 for an annual pass is definitely a good deal (even more affordable if you share the cost with others because you share a vehicle)! With all the incredible parks/landscapes the US has to offer, I would definitely buy it every year!

    1. When you compare $80 for a year to see amazing National Parks to a one day pass at an amusement park, you really see the wonderful value!

  5. My husband and I are a sucker of any travel pass every time we’re exploring places. Definitely will get this one to support its cause. Your photos are amazing! 🙂

  6. Thank you for writing this post! I love the National Parks System and anything that encourages people to support it is great. I don’t have a car, so some National Parks are hard for me to get to, but I always go when I can.

  7. My husband is in the US Air Force so we get the Military Pass. It’s such a steal! Sometimes I really don’t think our National Parks are appreciated as much as they should be. Thank you for this great post!

    1. I’m so glad they offer a pass for military families! I agree there are so many parks and places that aren’t being fully explored and experienced.

  8. US Parks Pass is quite incredible! I love the beauty of my country! The only reason I don’t have one is because I’m usually in the parks before there are any people at the gates. I live for dawn patrol and love to hit the park early to avoid the crowds. However, I’ll be traveling to some parks this year during the “slower” times for the park and I intend on purchasing one of these bad boys! It’s a great way to support our wild places.

    1. Funny you mention being on dawn patrol – we arrive in the parks well before sunrise and usually leave well after sunset. I think our last few trips to Arches and Canyonlands we never had to show our pass one time. But we always have one ‘just in case’.

  9. I agree, I’d purchase one just to support the National Parks! It’s been a while since we’ve gone to a National Park, but my 5 year old is more and more interested in them and outdoor activities, so we will have to start up again. I will definitely look into getting a pass!

  10. I got my America the Beautiful pass for the first time last year and it’s been SO GREAT! I didn’t even anticipate using it as much as I did and in the end I saved a ton. In a few parks it even acted like a “Fast Pass” where they saw me holding it at the check in and waved me to the front of the line. I love the National Parks Service and I’m so glad they offer this option.

    1. Thank you. We could spend all our travels exploring and photographing National Parks. They are spectacular – and each one is different.

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