America the Beautiful National Park Pass: Is it Actually Worth it?

Picture of a girl with an 'America the Beautiful National Park Pass' in Shenandoah Valley, VA

This is everything to know about the America the Beautiful pass before deciding whether to buy it or not.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed the increased price of *friggin everything* lately. 

The increased cost of gas and food is cutting into my vacay fund, and I’m not about it. 

Luckily, visiting national forests and parks can be some of the cheapest ways to vacation, but the costs can add up even then. 

The entrance prices have increased quite a bit in the last 10 years. Then there’s the gas, the national park food (always expensive), the souvenirs, the pet-sitting costs, etc. 

I wanted to put together a guide to the US national park pass because it’s an insanely easy way to save money on your next national park adventure. 

Still, lots of people don’t understand how it works. 

The many pass options come by many names: America the Beautiful Pass, National Park Pass, Annual Pass, Senior Pass–and they’re not just good for the National Park Service!

The pass covers entrance fees at any federal land agency, including the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and BLM.

Below, I’ve answered all of the questions you might have about the America the Beautiful Pass (spoiler alert, it’s *totally* worth it, especially when you buy your pass online at REI).

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

A woman standing in front of a waterfall at Yosemite National Park, after using the national park pass for entry.

What Does the America the Beautiful Pass Do? How Does it Work?

The America the Beautiful pass nestled in the snow.

The pass covers park admission into over 2,000 federal recreation sites for a full calendar year from the day you purchase it. 

It works for the following agencies:

  • National parks
  • National wildlife refuges (operated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
  • National forest land (managed by the U.S. Forest Service)
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Bureau of Reclamation

The pass is good for the personal vehicle of the pass owner or up to four individuals at parks that charge per person. 

The park pass is a hard-laminated card with spaces for two pass-holder signatures on the back. 

That way, you and your girlfriends can take the pass one weekend and the bae can take it the next. 

The most significant benefit to the annual national park pass is that it saves on entrance fees, especially if you frequent fee-collecting sites (i.e., most large national parks). 

With that said, the pass only includes park admission but does *NOT* give you free access to things like campsites or parking (unless parking is included in the admission cost).

Check out these FAQs about the America the Beautiful Pass for more info.

America the Beautiful Pass List of Parks [And Their Cost Without the Pass]

A woman looking out over Pinnacles national park.

Below, I’ve listed many of the places the national park pass works. Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list as the total list has over 2,000 federal recreation areas!

I’ve listed the price per vehicle (or noted the parks that charge an in-person fee) without the park pass. 

  • Acadia National Park – $30
  • Adams National Historical Park – $15/person
  • Antietam National Battlefield – $20
  • Arches National Park – $30
  • Assateague Island National Seashore – $25
  • Badlands National Park – $30
  • Bandelier National Monument – $25
  • Big Bend National Park – $30
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – $30
  • Bryce Canyon National Park – $35
  • Cabrillo National Monument – $20
  • Canaveral National Seashore – $20
  • Canyonlands National Park – $30
  • Cape Cod National Seashore – $25
  • Capitol Reef National Park – $20
  • Capulin Volcano National Monument – $20
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park – $15/person
  • Castillo De San Marcos National Monument – $15/person
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument – $10/person
  • Chaco Culture National Historical Park – $25
  • Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area -$5
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park – $20
  • Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park – $10/person
  • Christiansted National Historic Site – $7/person
  • Colonial National Historical Park – $15/person
  • Colorado National Monument – $25
  • Crater Lake National Park – $30
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve – $20
  • Cumberland Island National Seashore – $10/person
  • Death Valley National Park – $30
  • Denali National Park & Preserve – $15/person
  • Devils Tower National Monument – $25
  • Dinosaur National Monument – $25
  • Dry Tortugas National Park – $15/person
  • Everglades National Park – $30
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – $10/person
  • Fort Davis National Historic Site – $20
  • Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine – $15/person
  • Fort Pulaski National Monument – $10/person
  • Fort Smith National Historic Site – $10/person
  • Fort Sumter National Monument – $10/person
  • Fort Vancouver National Historic Site – $10/person
  • Glacier National Park – $35
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – $30
  • Golden Spike National Historic Site – $20
  • Grand Canyon National Park – $35
  • Grand Teton National Park – $35
  • Great Falls (George Washington Memorial Parkway) – $20
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – $25
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park – $10/person
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore – $25
  • Haleakalā National Park – $30
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – $20
  • Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – $30
  • Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site – $10/person
  • Hovenweep National Monument – $20
  • Indiana Dunes National Park – $25
  • Isle Royale National Park – $7/person
  • Joshua Tree National Park – $30
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park – $5
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area – $25
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park – $30
  • Lava Beds National Monument – $25
  • Lewis & Clark National Historical Park – $10/person
  • Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – $25
  • Mesa Verde National Park – $30
  • Montezuma Castle National Monument – $10/person
  • Mount Rainier National Park – $30
  • Muir Woods National Monument – $15/person
  • Natural Bridges National Monument – $20
  • Olympic National Park – $30
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – $25
  • Padre Island National Seashore – $25
  • Perry’s Victory International Peace Memorial – $10/person
  • Petrified Forest National Park – $25
  • Pictured Rocks National Park – $10
  • Pinnacles National Park – $30
  • Pipe Spring National Monument – $10/person
  • Prince William Forest Park – $20
  • Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park – $20
  • Rocky Mountain National Park – $35
  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site – $10/person
  • Saguaro National Park – $25
  • Saint Gaudens National Historic Site – $10/person
  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park – $15/person
  • San Juan National Historic Site – $10/person
  • Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks – $35
  • Shenandoah National Park – $30
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – $25
  • Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument – $25
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park – $30
  • Thomas Edison National Historical Park – $15/person
  • Tonto National Monument – $10/person
  • Tumacácori National Monument – $10/person
  • Tuzigoot National Monument – $15/person
  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site – $10/person
  • Vicksburg National Military Park – $20
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument – $15/person
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area – $25
  • White Sands National Park – $25
  • Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield – $20
  • Wright Brothers National Memorial – $10/person
  • Wupatki National Monument – $25
  • Yellowstone National Park – $35
  • Yosemite National Park – $35
  • Zion National Park – $35

What’s not Included With the America the Beautiful Pass?

Two tents set up on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park.

State Parks

Federal land management agencies operate national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges. 

By contrast, state governments run state recreation areas, which the national parks annual pass doesn’t cover.

Parks with Reservation Systems

A growing list of national parks have instituted reservation systems for part of, if not the entire year. 

At these parks, you must have a reservation (made in advance) but the pass will pay your entrance cost. 

I think this trend is likely to continue, but for what it’s worth, I’m all for it. 

Some of the worst national park experiences I’ve ever had were at Yellowstone National Park before the reservation system was in place.

Every national park manages its reservations differently, so you’ll need to do your research for the smoothest experience. Note that this list may change throughout the year.

Below is a list of parks with reservation systems in place for a part, or all, of 2023. 

Sometimes parks don’t announce their system until a few months prior to implementation, so keep an eye on each park’s website. 

Parks with Reservation Systems in 2023:

  • Acadia National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Haleakala National Park
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Red Rock Canyon
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Shenandoah National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Zion National Park

Concessionaire Fees/Expanded Amenity Fees

The park pass covers standard amenity fees and will include a national park map, newspaper, and ranger programs. 

However, the National Park Service uses third-party companies, called concessionaires, to provide services in parks (lodges, restaurants, campsites, etc), which come with concessionaire fees. 

There are some parks (Mount Rushmore comes to mind) where a concessionaire runs the parking lot, which means you pay an extra fee to park that isn’t covered by the pass.

How Much Does the America the Beautiful Pass Cost?

A close up of a sign that says US Fee Area-America the Beautiful Pass Accepted Here.

Annual Pass – $80

This is the standard America the Beautiful pass that’s available to anyone, US citizen or not. 

The pass is good for one calendar year, meaning if you purchase one in April 2023, it will be good through April 2024. 

This pass is not transferable or refundable, and you must keep the receipt because if you lose the physical card, there’s no way to get a refund or prove that you paid.

Senior Pass – $20-$80

There are two passes available for senior citizens: an $80 Senior Lifetime Pass and a $20 Senior Annual Pass. 

Both passes are available for US citizens and permanent residents over 62. 

They replace the Golden Age Pass (which is no longer available) but provide equal access for seniors. 

The Senior Pass is good for select 50% discounts on some standard amenity fees like camping or boat launching but is only good for the person who owns the pass.

Military Pass – Free

There are two pass options for military members and veterans. 

There’s the Military Lifetime Pass available to military veterans and Gold Star families. 

And then there’s the Military Annual Pass that’s available to current military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Space Force, and Reserve and National Guard. 

This pass works the same as any other pass for the national parks.

It’s free if you purchase it in person, but there’s a $10 fee if you buy it online, and you will need to show proper documentation.

Access Pass – Free

The free lifetime access pass is similar to the pass for seniors in terms of perks and is available for US citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities. 

This pass is free if you obtain it in person, but it’s $10 to purchase it online. 

4th Grade Pass – Free

If you have a 4th grader or home-schooled 10-year-old at home and love visiting national parks with your kids, you’re eligible for a free 4th Grade Pass. 

Volunteer Pass-Free

The Volunteer Pass is like the standard park pass in terms of benefits, except that it’s free and available to those who have volunteered 250 hours or more at a single national park. 

Most large national parks have volunteer programs, and the volunteer coordinator will hand them out at the end of the season.

Where to Purchase the America the Beautiful Pass

The outside of the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza Visitor Center in Yosemite National Park.

Pass sales vary depending on the type of pass you want. In general, there are three major outlets for passes.

In Person

You can purchase the pass at any federal recreation location that charges a fee. You can buy the pass at the entrance kiosk and sometimes at the visitor center.

However, since there are usually long lines at US national park entrances, I highly recommend purchasing the pass ahead of time via REI or over the phone so you don’t hold up the people behind you.

Online at REI

You can purchase the standard park pass at REI

Once you make the purchase, you’ll need to wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail. The parks won’t take a screenshot or email confirmation as proof of purchase. 

Plus, when you buy from REI, a portion of their proceeds support the National Park Foundation, the most significant supporting agency of the National Park Service.

REI also sells several state and regional park passes.

Via Phone

If you don’t have access to the internet, call 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747). USGS stands for US Geological Survey. They’re a federal agency that sells park passes.

How to Buy the Different Types of Passes

Annual Pass

REI is the easiest place to buy the standard park pass. You don’t need identification; these passes are available to anyone. 

Senior Pass

To obtain a pass for seniors, you’ll need to provide proof of your age and residency. 

These passes are only available at national park entrance stations or by mail. Check the Plan Your Visit page to find an in-person location.

Military Pass

You must obtain this pass in person and have the correct paperwork. Check the Plan Your Visit page to find an in-person location. 

Access Pass

Like the pass for seniors, this pass is only available in person or via mail. It’s also good for select 50% discounts on standard amenity fees for the pass holder only. 

Check the Plan Your Visit page to find an in-person location. 

4th Grade Pass

To obtain the 4th Grade Pass, you must visit the Every Kid Outdoors website to print out the paper pass. 

You *must* have the paper pass in hand to exchange it for the official hard-sided 4th Grade Pass in person. They won’t take a screenshot on your phone. 

Check the Plan Your Visit page to find an in-person location to obtain the official pass. 

Volunteer Pass

You can only get a Volunteer Pass through the national park you volunteered in. So, if you volunteer in Yellowstone National Park, that’s where you would pick up your pass.

FAQs About the America the Beautiful Pass

A group of hikers in Yosemite, after using the national park pass to get in.

Is America the Beautiful Pass the same as the national park pass?

Yes, they’re the same thing, just called different names. 

Does the America the Beautiful Pass cover all national parks?

Yes, the pass covers all national park units, plus all lands managed by the Forest Service (i.e. national forests), Fish and Wildlife Service (i.e., national wildlife refuges), BLM, and Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers sites (often dammed water bodies). 

Does the America the Beautiful Pass work at state parks?

No, the pass only works at national parks but doesn’t include admission to state parks. However, you can purchase many state and regional park passes via REI.

Does the America the Beautiful Pass cover parking costs?

The pass covers admission and parking for most national parks (as long as it’s included in the admission cost). 

If the park unit doesn’t have a parking lot inside the boundary of the park, you may have to pay for parking elsewhere. 

This can be true of urban parks, national historic sites encompassing a single building, and Mount Rushmore National Monument, where a concessionaire runs the parking lot. 

Does the America the Beautiful Pass work at national monuments?

Yes, national parks and monuments, along with national seashores, national battlefields, national historic sites, national preserves, national recreation areas, and national military parks, are all administered by the federal government. 

Therefore, your pass will get you admission into any federally managed recreation spaces. 

How long is America the Beautiful Pass good for? Does it expire?

The standard national park pass, Volunteer Pass, and 4th Grade Pass are all good for one calendar year. 

The passes for military members/veterans and seniors also have an annual version. 

The year begins the month you obtain the pass for all of these passes except the 4th Grade pass. 

The 4th Grade Pass is only good from September-August of the child’s fourth grade school year. 

The Lifetime pass is available to seniors (age 62+), military members, and those with US citizenship or permanent residents with a permanent disability. These passes do not expire. 

Does the America the Beautiful Pass ever go on sale?

The pass is sold by the federal government, and they don’t really “do” sales. 

I’ve heard of some sketchy sites that supposedly sell the pass for a small discount, but I wouldn’t trust them. 

First, it’s a pretty small discount and second, the national parks are woefully underfunded already. 

Supporting the national parks with the full-priced pass is a small contribution to the greater good. 

How do I get a free or discounted America the Beautiful Pass?

Unfortunately, there is no legitimate America the Beautiful Pass discount code. If you really can’t afford the $80 pass, try visiting on a fee-free day.  

Can you use someone else’s Park Pass?

The standard pass has spaces on the back for two signatures. If you’re traveling with one of the pass owners, you’re good. 

What is the difference between the America the Beautiful Pass and the National Park Passport?

The standard park pass includes over 2,000 federal recreation sites. The national park passport book is a souvenir to collect national park stamps. 

You can buy the park pass online or at the park entrance station. You can buy the national park passport book at visitor centers, gift shops, or online. 

You can learn more about the national park passport here

What is the Golden Age Passport? What about the Golden Eagle Passport?

The Golden Age Passport and Golden Eagle Passport were the old versions of the current pass for seniors and military members/veterans, respectively. They’ve since been retired.

However, since these were both lifetime passes, they will be honored for the life of the pass owner.  

Is there a way to visit the US national parks for free without a national park pass?

Visiting national parks is an American tradition that should be available to everyone. 

For five days every year, the National Park Service waives entrance costs. See the schedule of fee-free days here

Note that you’ll still need a reservation to enter national parks with reservation systems on fee-free days (reservations are typically free to make or $2). 

So, is the America the Beautiful Pass Worth it?

A close-up of a person holding the America the Beautiful pass with the blurred scenery of a national park in the background.

Overall, the America the Beautiful Pass is worth it, especially when you buy from REI, which in turn supports the National Park Foundation. 

A national parks road trip is one of my favorite American pastimes, and the park pass can save you a ton of money if you’re planning to visit several large national parks. 

Many large national parks charge about $35 per vehicle to enter, so if you visit two or more parks, you’ve already paid for the pass. 

For example, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park share a border, and each charge $35 per vehicle. 

Most people who visit one want to see the other, so it makes sense to buy the pass for that trip alone. 

It doesn’t make sense to buy the $80 America the Beautiful Pass if you know you’ll only be traveling to one park or your favorite parks don’t charge a fee. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author photo of Meredith Dennis, showing a blonde woman in a purple beanie grinning with trees and a vista in the background.

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in six states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!


Looking for more park inspiration? Read our related articles below!

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Best National Park Gifts

A Guide to National Parks in California

California State Parks List

Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Things to do in Redwood National Park

Things to do in Joshua Tree National Park

Pinnacles National Park Guide

Ultimate Guide to the Best Redwoods in California

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America the Beautiful National Park Pass: Is it Actually Worth it?

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