By Cheri Sicard
This is an awesome video in that it explains ALL the different national parks passes and federal land and recreation area passes available. It turns out there are a lot of these. Who knew?
The folks from RV Miles have done a terrific job of compiling all the pertinent national parks pass information, including brand-new changes coming in 2023 and beyond, into one comprehensive video.
With so many options, it can sometimes get confusing trying to figure out which one or ones you need, if any.
More than just national parks passes, what the video covers are inter-agency passes that allow pass holders access to all the various types of federal recreation lands. These are “inter-agency” passes because it turns out a number of different agencies manage our federal lands including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Parks Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Army Corps of Engineers, and more.
All of these different agencies have different fees associated with their recreational lands. And different ways of paying those fees. But the agencies came together years ago to produce the “America the Beautiful” or interagency pass. But there are different types of passes under this heading and the video breaks them all down.
Not all federal recreation lands charge a fee, so the video advises not rushing out to buy a pass in advance, as you can usually buy them wherever fees are charged. Although you can purchase online in advance.
In addition to the different types of passes, the video covers the rules and regulations of the passes, how to use them, restrictions and exceptions, along with who can qualify for free national parks passes and how to do so.
Types of inter-agency national park passes covered:
This pass will apply to the most people and is available to U.S. residents and foreign visitors ages 16 and older for $80 a year and will cover the fees at most national parks and federal recreation land fees. Children under 15 are not subjected to fees. This is the only national parks pass available to non-U.S. citizens. For the remaining passes covered, you must be a United States citizen to qualify.
The annual pass gets you no other discount other than entrance to and “standard amenity fees” at federal recreation lands. This typically means day use or boat launch fees. The pass gains entrance for a carload, meaning up to four adults. It also has a space for two signatures on the back, meaning a couple can share a single pass.
“Enhanced recreation fees,” including camping, picnic shelter fees, or tours are not discounted with the inter-agency annual pass.
The video also covers lower-cost options for those who will only be visiting a single national park, or who will not use the annual pass often enough to justify an $80 price tag. They also talk about the benefits of ordering passes online as opposed to buying them in person.
The Every Kid Outdoors Pass
A special free national parks pass is available to 4th graders (or home-schooled 10-year-olds). While true that kids under 15 get free admission to national parks, this pass allows the child to bring along their whole family for free. Unlike other national parks passes that you can buy on the spot, this one must be secured prior to arriving at the park.
The Senior Pass (formerly known as the Golden Age Pass)
If you are 62 or older, this national parks pass comes with incredible benefits. Beyond gaining free admission for the carload, this pass gets you half-price “enhanced recreation fees” at federal facilities. That’s right RVers, half price camping fees on federal lands! THAT’S HUGE!!!
The U.S. Forest Service has some caveats covered in the video and amenities offered by private concessionaires are not covered.
You can buy the senior pass annually for $20, or you can get a lifetime pass for $80! However, you can save up your annual passes and get credit for them should you later decide to upgrade to a lifetime pass, so never throw them out.
The Access Pass
The free Access Pass is for anyone living with a disability. To qualify you must be permanently disabled, but it need not be a 100% disability and it can be any kind of physical or mental disability.
The Access Pass comes with all the same great benefits of the Seniors Pass, including half-price campsites!
Watch the video for more details and to learn how to apply.
The Military Pass
This pass has some new details starting in 2023. The military national parks pass used to be available as an annual pass only and it was only offered to active duty military personnel.
That pass still exists. However, a few years ago Congress extended those benefits to veterans and Gold Star families. But the pass still had to be purchased on an annual basis.
But there is now a new lifetime option available to active duty military, veterans, and Gold Star families. Again, watch the video for details and how to apply.
The Military passes offer entrance-only with no other discounts.
So get the lowdown on all the details associated with all the different national parks passes by watching the video.