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

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.


Lana, I agree with you completely.
Are ya'll ever going to mail out the pass? I ordered one two (2) months ago. Sounds like some sort of scam going down. What's up?
The official pass program is run by USGS. For questions about the pass, contact 1-888-ASK-USGS and press 3. (888-275-8747, option 3), or [email protected]
We entered Hoosier National Forrest today with our lifetime pass and still had to pay 2.50. I am puzzled by this, I thought all national parks were free with the pass.
I was out of town and missed the deadline for the senior pass...any chance it will be extended or offered again?
I tried and tried and tried to signup before the price changed but only kept getting an error message. I called the support line and was told that someone would call me back on Monday, after the price change. Still waiting for the call at 1 pm on Mon. I am very disappointed with this process.
At $80, I think it is still the great deal.
I hope to be able to get a lifetime pass but I am not yet of age, who can I text?
If Congress could be relied on the provide the funding these special places need and deserve, I'd agree they should be free to visit. But that has never happened, so I support user fees as long as the money goes to the parks. The senior lifetime pass I bought almost 10 years ago was a steal and has paid for itself many times over. The increase is justified.
I don't have a problem with the higher fee. But at that price, the card should be registered and be replaceable if lost.
I've been waiting for a number of years to get a $10 Senior Lifetime Pass. I'm 11 months short of age 62 and will now have to pay $80. I wish they would have gradually increased the fee.
The list showing where to get passes is so incomplete. The first Park office I went to was on Ocracoke Island, NC and they had plenty of passes. The two listed in NC were sold out. Hmmm. I was super excited to get the pass. Used it the next day. Love our National Parks.
$80 ? Our National Parks are worth every penny!
I agree that the $80 dollar price for a Lifetime Park pass is certainly a good value. As a resident of the East coast, toll roads and bridges make a trip from Washington DC to New York or Cape Cod cost over $40 dollars one way. $80 dollars for a lifetime pass to any National park is not too expensive. Some parks and attractions are still free. I have seen where the additional money the Park Service has received has been put to good use. Just little things like the new comfort stations at Arches National Park are so nice. I've also always liked the Park Service employees who have always made my visits pleasant. Some of the more popular parks charge $25 dollars to enter for a week pass. $80 dollars for a lifetime for any park is amazingly reasonable!
It's about time the Park Service raised the price of the senior pass!! Even at $80 it is SO worth it!! The parks need the funds and this is a great way to raise money.
I firmly do not believe parks should charge ANY entrance fee. the parks are here for everyone, and everyone should be able to enter them free of charge. that said, the Government should balance their budgets and provide enough for the parks without these continual extra fees. We pay our taxes to cover things like care of our parks and it should be used for those things, not sending it to other countries or other uses. Everyone, should have the opportunity to visit THEIR parks. I am old enough to remember when it used to be that way. It is a shame our government cannot follow a budget like the rest of us have to do!
The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited National Park in the USA and does NOT charge an entrance fee. I grew up near the GSM, and thought all National Parks were free, but soon found out I was mistaken.
I for one unfortunately remember why there was originally a $10 fee, because before that, seniors were allowed to go into the parks for free. We were lied to, because we were told the $10 fee would NEVER be increased, because the $10 fee was only to provide for the materials cost, for the vehicle window sticker for your car (but later on for the credit card type pass) and for the cost of the pamphlets handed out to seniors. We were lied to and told that the $10 would NEVER be applied to programs or projects, but was only to cover the cost of the printed materials. The $80 fee which was snuck into the program is a scam, according to the terms of the original agreement to raise the cost from nothing to $10. If you go back and look at the original reason for changing the program from free to $10, it was to cover the cost of printed materials only. Printed materials only... so this original price increase from nothing to $10 was obviously a scam. because now seniors are being required to pay for programs and for projects? Seniors used to get in for free because of the valuable contribution they have made this country for decades. The National Park Service should be ashamed of itself for going back on its promise to NEVER increase the fee to seniors.
Mark, you make a good point. I last visited a park just a few days before my 62nd birthday so I paid a full one time entrance fee. I am now 66 and about to visit a park next month when I expected to buy the pass. I didn't learn about the increase until just now. This feels like a slap in the face. I think I will cancel my visit as this makes me feel I will be cheated. I will also make it a point to call every member of Congress and let them know of my displeasure. Perhaps the idea of raising this so much higher all at once was to discourage attendance at parks. Congratulations, I think it may well have worked to discourage me.
Why the August 28th cut-off? Why didn't this date become effective December 31st so everyone whom turned 62 this year could benefit? There's the other 1/3 of the population who turn 62 this year! Because we were born after August 28, 1955 we have to pay more? This doesn't seem fair!
I've been waiting to get this pass, my birthday is August 31, KARMA ! The parks are beautiful and this wont keep me from going! Such an arbitrary cut off date!
Everyone born after Aug 28, 2017 should feel lucky that they are providing additional funding for the parks.
I fully support this increase. As a long time visitor to national parks we must preserve them. They are our national treasures.
My husband has had his pass for 18 years, I've had mine for 6 years. We have traveled extensively since retiring in 2005, and it has been $$ well spent. I ALWAYS leave a donation at the visitor center of the park/monument we are visiting (if one exists) so that they get some extra $$. If the grandkids are with us, they love to do the honors.
I have had a senior pass for a number of years now, though health issues have prevented me from utilizing it as much as desired. But $10 for an entry fee, much less a lifetime pass is a ridiculously low admission price. You can't even see a good movie for $10. True, more people are visiting the parks increasing revenue, but that raises maintenance costs while jeopardizing the quality of our parks. I agree that a price increase is long overdue, especially with government funding cutbacks. We all love our parks, let's make sure they have adequate funding for proper maintenance and control.
I love our national parks but find it sort of dismaying that we are trying to fund them by charging seniors more. The US government should just pony up and support our magnificent parks. Instead, from what I understand, the parks have just been receiving increasing cuts to budgets and the current administration will probably try to privatize them all instead of supporting them and beginning to restore funding until they are once again fully shining jewels.
All government and non-government facilities have a hard time keeping up with maintenance . Rising prices and budget cuts are, it seems, inevitable. Like Robin, I don't want to see privatization in our Parks. However, are you aware that the current administration's head (our President) donated his first year's salary to the National Park Service? With that gesture, I am hopeful that our parks will see the attention they deserve.
When I purchased my Lifetime pass, a few weeks ago, the ranger station did not have any informational pamphlets to go with it. I'd love to receive one, so that I know how to use it, and what discounts it covers within the parks. Thank you!
What about disabled senior passes
Clearly, the huge numbers of people coming into parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone mean that you are not charging enough. People pay $100 a day or more to enter amusements like Disney World, yet the national park is charging practically nothing. I waited over an hour in a mile-long line to get through the entrance station at Yosemite in July and I had gotten there early. Too many people means the cost of entry is too low.


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