The National Parks Annual Pass
Before we embarked on this adventure, Scott’s Mom gave us a very helpful tip: purchase a National Parks Annual Pass. Boy was that one of the most useful things we did. For $80, we have a pass that:
covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. A pass covers entrance and standard amenity 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 age 15 or under are admitted free.
To break it down to layman’s terms, we can drive into any national park, forest, or landmark for free. There might be a few exceptions that we haven’t encountered yet, but thus far, it’s granted us free access everywhere we go.
How Much And Where?
So while we’re trying to convince everyone that they should get and make great use of the National Parks Pass, let’s talk about what it’s saved us and where. Note that we started using this when we left on November 7th, 2011, so it’s been less than 6 months.
- Fort Pulaski – $10 ($5 per person)
- Ocala National Forest – $5
- The Everglades – $10
- Carlsbad Caverns – $12 ($6 per person)
- White Sands National Monument – $6 ($3 per person)
- The Catwalk in Gila National Forest – $3
- The Gila Cliff Dwellings – $6 ($3 per person or $10 for a family)
- The Grand Canyon – $25
- Mesa Verde National Park – $10
- Total – $87 since Nov 7th
Regarding that trip to the Grand Canyon, we only had a short time to stop by. If it weren’t for the Pass, we wouldn’t have even gone to see the Canyon at this point. There’s really no sense in paying $25 for a 1 hour visit. But since we had the Pass, we figured the detour was worth it.
In less than 6 months, we’ve recouped the cost of the Annual Pass and we still have another 6 months to go to tally up the savings. We haven’t even made it to some of the expensive parks, like Yellowstone ($25) and Yosemite ($20).
We already have another $25 of savings planned for Alaska at Kenai Fjords ($5) and Denali National Park ($10 per person), not to mention that we’ll pass through Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Washington, and Oregon on our way to and from Alaska.
Saving money is great, but the best part of the Pass has been not having to worry about having the cash on us. Note that it typically covers entrance fees, but not fees for tours, camping, etc.
Get Your Pass!
If you’re an avid Park goer or are planning to be a more avid Park goer or want some incentive to become a more avid Park goer, get a National Parks Annual Pass. Really, the more we see of the National Parks, the more we want to see the others.
As the superintendent of Carlsbad Caverns told us, you and I and your brother and sister and your aunts and uncles are the owners of these Parks. These are community lands and we should be taking advantage of them.
The National Parks really are some of our most important assets as a nation, protecting little bits of our heritage and the pristine beauty that the United States has to offer.