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Understanding the National Park Senior Pass Rate Increase

Dave L. receiving a lifetime pass at Yosemite National Park – Lisa Lopez, Share Your Story

The cost of the lifetime national park senior pass increased on August 28, 2017. The price is now $80, though seniors who already have a pass will not need to get a new one.

What is the pass?

The America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass offers U.S. citizens or permanent residents over the age of 62 entrance into national parks and national wildlife refuges, in addition to standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. If at a per vehicle area, the pass holder and occupants of a non-commercial vehicle enter free. At per person fee areas, the pass holder and up to three additional adults enter free of charge.

The pass includes other discounts on some expanded amenity fees charged at facilities and services (boat lunch, camping, etc.). The pass is non-transferable and does NOT cover recreation permit fees or concessionaire fees. It cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Why did the price increase?

The price increase is a result of the Centennial Legislation P.L. 114-289 passed by the U.S. Congress on December 16, 2016. The new cost of the lifetime senior pass will be equal to the regular price of an America the Beautiful Pass, the annual pass for those under the age of 62.

The price of the lifetime senior pass had not changed since 1994, but the needs of our national parks have increased since that time. The revenues generated from the sales of the lifetime senior passes will help support projects and programs that support visitor experiences at the over 400 national parks across the country. For the same price ($80) that non-senior visitors pay for one year, pass holders receive unlimited access for years to come.

How do I get a pass?

To get a pass you can choose one of the following methods:

  1. Mail (requires additional $10 processing fee): Paper applications will require proof of residency and age.
  2. Online (requires additional $10 processing fee): Applicants need to upload proof of residency and age, as well as providing credit card information.
  3. In person (no additional fee): This is the preferred option if you’re visiting one of the participating Federal recreation sites or offices. Here is a list of locations that offer the Senior Pass. Make sure to call ahead to ensure that they have passes on hand.

Passes take between six to ten weeks to arrive. Be careful with your pass! They are non-refundable, non-transferable, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Sun peaking out over blue the blue mountaintops with rocks in the foreground at Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park (iStock)

Worried about committing $80 to a lifetime pass that you may only use this year?

Rather than leaping into a lifetime pass, another great option is to purchase an Annual Senior pass for $20, which lasts for one year. Once you renew the pass for four consecutive years (a total of $80), you’re welcome to trade the pass in for a lifetime national park senior pass for no additional fee and you will not need to renew your pass ever again!

What about prices for other passes?

Here is a list of information and pricing for other park passes.

What about the FREE stuff?

There are fee-free days for all visitors several times a year. Check here for a list of fee-free days. Free passes are also available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities and volunteers who have completed 250 service hours.

These rate increases will help the National Park Service improve visitor experiences and recreation opportunities across the land. For further information on these recent updates, head to the National Park Service website.

Other Questions?

Have other questions about the pass or about your pass in particular? The official pass program is run by USGS. For any other information about the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, contact 1-888-ASK-USGS and press 3. (888-275-8747, option 3), or [email protected]

Last updated February 26, 2021.