Why the US National Parks Pass is a Good Deal

UPDATED: April 2017 There are 59 areas around the United States that are protected and called National Parks. The US National Parks Pass is a GOOD DEAL! It covers entrance and day fees for the various parks around the US that feature landscapes from deserts and glaciers to caves and coral reefs. National Parks are one of the country’s biggest attractions.

National Parks were founded to preserve the country’s greatest natural treasures simply as they were.

President Roosevelt expressed when designating the Grand Canyon as a national monument, “Leave it as its is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

What is the US National Park Annual Pass?

The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

According to the National Park Service website:

The America the Beautiful pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person, children 15 and under are free).

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.

What does it cost?

The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

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.

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

  • Senior Pass if you’re over 62
  • Military Pass
  • 4th Grade Pass

You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas.

The pass allows two signatures so it can be shared, and the two people don’t have to be related. You will need to show photo ID each time you use the pass.

Does it really save money?

The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

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.

You can find details of all US National Parks, including their entry fees, on the National Park Service website.

Why we buy the annual pass each year.

The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

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 ServicePublic 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.

John Muir famously said, “Thousands of tire, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

Proximity – Living in Utah, we have a definite advantage being close to so many parks. There are 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.

Our Travel Bucket List includes visiting all 52 National Parks. The National Park Service website provides a list of these parks from A-Z or by State.

Free Entrance Days save you money.

The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

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.

The America the Beautiful Pass is worth it.

The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

  • 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.
  • The pass can be shared by two people.
  • 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. 

John F. Kennedy said, “National Parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent us of natural resources.”

National Park Service sign

TRAVEL TIPS

We utilize Pinterest to organize the information we find when researching travel locations. Photo Jeepers has a US National Parks board where we only pin things we have read and find worthwhile. Save this to your travel board and share with your friends!

Use the Travel Guides and Tips on the Photo Jeepers Destination page along with the resources on our Pinterest board to help you plan a trip to any US National Park.

Contact us if you have any questions. We have years of experience traveling to many of the US National Parks. Let us help you plan the perfect National Park itinerary tailored to your interests.

Why the US National Parks Pass is a Good Deal  The US National Parks Pass is a great deal, especially for budget travelers. If you're planning to see multiple national parks this year, find out how you can save a bunch of money without giving up any of the fun! You'll want to save this post to your travel board.

If you enjoyed this, please share and let us know your thoughts below.


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23 comments

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!

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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!

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$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!

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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!

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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! 🙂

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We also buy a state parks pass to support our local area as well. Thank you for the comment about our photos!

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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.

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Thank you Stella. I am so lucky to live in Utah surrounded by National Parks so close. I hope you can visit some parks soon!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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!

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My kids loved doing the Junior Ranger programs at the parks we visited so keep that in mind when you visit with kids!

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Sounds like a fair price for supporting a cause, especially if you’re planning on going out to the parks a lot.

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It really is a fair price – and we definitely get our money’s worth – AND MORE!

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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.

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That’s great it was a ‘fast pass’ for you – another added bonus!

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National Parks are amazing for a short trip. Walking, exploring and observing the beauty of Nature. Nice Post, Thank You! 🙂

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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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Yes, supporting the cause is a fair reason!.. Good post btw, loved all the pictures!

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Thank you, Aarti – images of the National Parks are always beautiful!

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