The National Park Service offers a free annual pass to Active Duty Military Members and their Dependents that allow you into more than 2000 federal land recreational sites. We have got this free National Park pass for service members every year since 2010. In 2017, the pass expanded to include Army Corps of Engineer sites as well!
Needless to say, we use it A LOT! The pass is now called the America the Beautiful Annual Pass and just like the regular annual pass, it must be renewed every year. If you visit recreational areas a lot (and my guess is you probably do even if you don’t know it) this pass comes in very useful and can save you a lot of money!
What the Free National Park Pass Covers
This pass allows the Military member and up to 3 adults (ages 16 & older; 15 and younger are free) within the same vehicle free admission to The Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineer, and Bureau of Reclamation sites where entrance or standard amenity fees are charged.
There are two signature lines on the back of the card, the first signature line is for the active duty member and the second is for a dependent (optional). Only dependents may sign the second signature line. One signer must be present when using the pass.
What it Doesn’t Cover
While this pass will allow you to get into these areas for free it does not, however, cover expanded amenity fees such as camping, boat launch or interpretive fees. In other words, while they will waive the entrance fee if you are camping, you will still be responsible for paying the nightly camping fee, etc…
How To Get It
Military members will need to present their CAC card at one of the Federal lands that charge an entrance fee in order to obtain the annual pass. Those that have sponsors deployed just need to present DOD form 1173.
It’s best to call beforehand to make sure they have these special passes available as not all national parks are able to issue passes. You can see a complete list of where passes are issued here.
For More Info
For more information see the Overview of the Annual Pass for Active Duty Military and Their Dependents page on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website.
When I first started visiting national parks & monuments, I noticed all of them had these stamps with ink and people were stamping what looked like a passport. It turns out the National Park Service does have a passport where you can stamp each of your visits. Don’t be a fool though like I was! Not only did I not get one until after a couple of years of visiting parks and missing out on the free stamps, but I also assumed that all National Parks sold the passports themselves! They don’t! Make sure to grab one before you go, so you can start collecting these free stamps as you visit the parks!
You can purchase the spiral-bound one (shown above) here. Or if you are a “hardcore” NPS visitor you may want to check out the hardcover spiral bound collector’s addition here.
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