**Updated January 2018**
The National Park Service, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1916, is over 100 years old. He believed in preserving the natural beauty found in all four corners of the United States.
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” -Theodore Roosevelt
Over the past few years, record numbers of people have visited National Parks across the U.S. If you’re planning a trip, take a look and see how you can save money at the National Parks. It’s more than possible for everyone to get out and enjoy the diverse landscapes across the United States without breaking the budget.
5 Ways to Save Money at the National Parks
1. Buy the America the Beautiful (Annual) Pass.
For $80, the America the Beautiful Pass is valid for a calendar year. This interagency pass covers the typical entrance fee at sites within agencies like the Forest Service and the National Park Service.
Consider each vehicle entering a National Park typically costs $25 for its occupants up to 4 adults. Children 15 and under are always free. Some parks like Zion National Park have even raised the price to $30. Rates for pedestrians and cyclists are usually around $10 per adult.
If you’re planning to visit 3 or more National Parks in a calendar year, then the $80 America the Beautiful Pass will easily pay for itself.
I bought this pass for a trip to Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, and Zion National Parks and saved $25 compared to buying admission at each park separately. The best part is the pass is valid until April 2017 and can be used for free entry to any other National Parks I visit between now and then.
2. Visit on a Fee-Free Day.
Each year, the National Parks Service designates fee-free days to visit National Parks across the country. While some parks get busy on these days, you just can’t beat free! 😉
You can also check National Parks by state on this list to know about location-specific fee-free dates.
3. Get a free Annual Pass for U.S. Military.
The Annual Military Pass is available to people who are currently serving in any of the 4 major branches of the military. Coast Guard, Reserve, and National Guard members also are eligible. The Military Pass is also valid for the dependents of all active military personnel and/or family traveling in the same vehicle.
You’ll need to show your military I.D. card in person to qualify for your annual pass. See the link above for locations to get your Annual Military Pass.
4. Make your 4th-grader pay.
Isn’t it time the kids started to pull their own weight in the family?! If you have a 4th-grader, this is the perfect way for he/she to start!
With the Annual 4th-Grade Pass, all 4th graders and their car full of family members are free for the entire school year and the following summer (September-August) of their 4th-grade school year. Homeschool students are eligible when they turn 10 years old.
To get the pass, go to the Every Kid in a Park Website. Follow the steps to print out the paper voucher with your child’s unique code. Take the paper pass to a Federal Recreation area, such as a National Park, and get the free Annual 4th-Grade Pass.
5. Invite Grandma and Grandpa to visit the National Park, too!
Of course, a multi-generational trip to the National Parks is an unforgettable experience! It’s even better if grandma or grandpa got the Senior Pass before prices went up! Still, the Senior Pass costs just $80 (+$10 for processing) for all U.S. citizens and Legal Residents who are 62 years old and up. Different from the America Beautiful Pass above, the pass is valid for the pass holder’s lifetime! It grants free admission to a car full of adults (up to 4). The grandkids 15 years old and younger are always free!
The Senior Pass also offers discounts on some of the expanded amenity fees, such as a campground reservation fee or a guided tour fee. Pass holders should check at each individual National Park location to confirm all benefits.
All that’s left is to plan your National Park trip! Need inspiration? Check out the 10 most visited U.S. National Parks.
Do you know of any other money saving options? Which National Parks have you visited? Which National Parks would you like to visit?
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