America the Beautiful Pass
“America, the beautiful,” is right. From sea to shining sea, America’s packed with miles of natural beauty. We have sandy beaches, snowy mountains, and breezy grasslands. What more could you ask for? The wonders of this country are natural. In the mid- 1800s, Americans started to realize that. They began designating certain areas as national parks. These set a precedent. They became the first national parks in the world.
This wasn’t a ploy to promote tourism, though. This was a way to protect our land’s natural beauty and wildlife. In 1916, President Ulysses S. Grant created the National Park Service. Its mission is to conserve and protect these lands. Its work began decades ahead of that, though. Yellowstone National Park became America’s first national park in 1872.
Hundreds of other locations have become national parks ever since. Today, 417 national parks grace our country. They offer simple pleasures, like hiking and biking. Each park has its own unique activities depending on the terrain. In Alaska, you can meet sled dogs. On the west coast, you can whale watch. In Colorado, you can sandboard. Every park has something different to offer. They’re a chance to appreciate the different landscapes our country has.
The Cost of Our Parks
If you’re thinking of park hopping, it’ll cost you. Some national parks aren’t free to visit. In fact, 117 of them charge a fee for entry, per person. Only children under age 15 get free access. You may be wondering, why is that? These parks need money to keep functioning. The National Park Service says 80 percent of the fee you pay goes back into the park you’re visiting. These funds go toward things like repairs, maintenance, and construction. The other 20 percent of what you pay goes toward parks that are free to visit.
Prices vary by park, and by how you’re planning to see it. Some are accessible by foot. You can drive through others. If you enter a park by car, it can cost $35. It can cost $30 by motorcycle. If you plan to travel it by foot or hike, it can cost $20. These prices are per person. They don’t include other fees for things like camping or fishing. Here, we are trying to find the answer to the question: Where Can I Buy A national park pass?
Options are available to help keep costs low. National park passes cover the entrance fees at all national parks. They can cost more upfront, but they save you money if you visit these parks a lot. Certain passes cover or offer discounts on other fees and activities, too.
Several kinds of these passes are available. Each one offers something unique – and requires different things. Which one is best for you?
Weighing Your Options
You may choose from the following National Park Passes as per your eligibility or as what you can afford :
1. Annual Pass
2. Senior Pass
3. Free Passes
4. Annual military Passes
5. 4th Grade Pass
6. Access Pass
7. Volunteer Pass
Let’s start with the simplest option America the Beautiful: The Annual Pass For National Parks. This pass is available to anyone, though it is the most expensive. It applies to the owner and three other adults at any park. This costs $80 per year. You can buy it online, by phone, or in person at any park.
Then, there is the senior pass. This is available to anyone age 62 and older. There are two options: a lifetime pass, or an annual pass. An annual pass will cost you $20. A lifetime pass costs $80. Both versions of the pass have some other perks. They offer 50 percent discounts on some amenity fees. Like the annual pass, you can click here to buy this online at different sites, by phone, or in person.
One of the great things about these passes is that they can be gifts. If someone you love loves to travel – get them a pass. Gifted versions of these passes come with two blank signature lines. They let you add your name as a reminder.
Following these passes, are free passes. The catch is, that they have more specific requirements. You cannot transfer them to anyone. But, they can apply to three people who are accompanying you at the park.
Annual Military Passes
First, is the annual military pass. It is available to current U.S. military members and their dependents. You can only buy these in person at a federal recreation site. That’s because proof you’ll need to show a PAC or military ID.
Next is the annual 4th-grade pass. This one is available to all 4th graders. It’s valid from September of their school year, through the following August. This is free and available through the Every Kid in a Park program. You can only get these through the Every Kid in a Park program’s website. You must print out a pass. Then you have to bring it to a park and exchange it for an annual pass.
For more information about this pass, you refer to the Every Kid in a Park site.
Then, there is the Access Pass. The Access Pass is free. It’s available to those with permanent handicaps. You can only apply for these in person or via mail. This is because you have to show paperwork proving your handicap. This is valid for the owner and all of their passengers. It also offers several discounts on expanded fees. That includes things like boat launching, camping, swimming, and guided tours.
Finally, the Volunteer Pass is an option. This is free to anyone with 250 hours of service with federal agencies. They have to complete this service through a special government program. Six agencies are part of this program. They are the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish, and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. You can get this pass in person or through the mail. This is because you need to show proof of those hours you volunteered.
It is important to know – you can’t use these passes to get into a state park. This is only for federally owned land. You must buy state park passes individually.
In the end, it’s important to look at your options. If you can apply for a free pass –make sure you do it. If you can’t, consider buying an annual pass for you and your guests. You can utilize it to soak in our country’s beauty.
So go to the Complete PDF listing of Federal Recreation Sites which issue National park passes. Enjoy your hiking and camping experiences at their best.