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How to Get a Cheap National Parks Pass

How to Get a Cheap National Parks Pass

The most magnificent wonders in the United States are tucked within National Parks. From the towering, glacial peaks of Mount Rainier to the 800 miles of scenic wonderland in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the National Parks hold some of America’s greatest treasures.

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We didn’t create this video but we do love it!
A visit to a National Park is a wonderful experience… until you get to the gate and realize you can’t afford to go in. That’s happened to us more than once.

However, I’ve uncovered several alternatives to the expensive daily rates. Our family has a free disability pass now so we never get turned away at the gate! Keep reading to learn more about cheap National Parks Passes.

Annual Passes save everyone money.

The National Parks system offers an $80 annual pass that grants access to more than 2,000 federal locations. Can’t afford $80? Hang on – I’ll tell you all the ways you can save money on that in just a minute. First, let me tell you what this pass does.

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This interagency pass covers entrance fees, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle. At locations that charge per person instead of per car, up to four adults and all children age 15 and under are admitted free.

This pass works at the following locations:

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  • National Parks
  • Wildlife refuges
  • National forests and grasslands
  • Bureau of Land Management lands
  • Bureau of Reclamation lands
  • US Army Corps of Engineers lands

free cheap national parks pass

You can get an Annual FREE or CHEAP Park Pass if you qualify for one of these programs!

The National Parks system offers special discounted passes for military, seniors, disabled persons, fourth graders and volunteers. Here are some great ways to save money.

MILITARY: If you are an active US military member or dependent, you can get a free annual interagency pass by showing your CAC card or military ID at a federal recreation site.

SENIORS:  Seniors who are age 62 or older can purchase a lifetime pass for just $80 on-site (or $90 through the mail)! This pass includes admission and provides a 50% discount on special amenities, including camping, swimming and boat launches, as well as entrance for a traveling companion.

This Senior Pass replaces the Golden Age Passports that used to be sold, although GAP cards will still be honored.  Instead of paying $80 for a lifetime pass, you also have the option of paying $20 for an annual senior pass.  Save them, and once you’ve bought four consecutive, annual senior passes, you can trade them in for a lifetime pass.

DISABLED: If you have a permanent disability, you can obtain a FREE Access Pass, which includes admission and provides a 50% discount on special amenities, including camping, swimming and boat launches.

You’ll need to provide evidence of your disability. Evidence could include any of the following:

  • A letter from a federal agency, such as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs or SSI/SSDI offices
  • A letter from a state agency, such as a vocational rehabilitation agency
  • A letter that is signed by a licensed physician stating that you have a permanent mental, physical or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities and states the nature of the impairment.

You can apply for the disability pass through the mail or in person at a federal recreation site. The pass is free if you pick it up on-site but costs $10 for processing if you apply through the mail. More information on that here. 

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FOURTH GRADERS: The Every Kid in a Park program grants a free annual pass to US fourth graders, including students who are homeschooled or free-choice learners who are 10 years old. The pass is valid for one year, beginning the September that the student begins (or would begin) fourth grade. The paper pass can be obtained by clicking here and must be printed to be used.

VOLUNTEERS: Volunteers who provide 250 hours of service with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program can receive a free pass as well.

Save money on State Parks passes, too!

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Have too much month at the end of your money? Me too - and that's how Low Income Relief got started. I have over 20 years of professional research and writing experience. Over the years, I've worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. My work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, eHow.com, Livestrong.com, Legal Beagle, The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah), The Chronicle (Centralia, WA) and others. At Low Income Relief, I use my professional research and reporting experience to help low income families save money and make ends meet. It's been my full-time job since 2016, and it's truly an honor to serve you.

Rich

Monday 4th of January 2021

With Covid 19 everywere in the central valley of California (Jan 4th of 2021 ,Im wondering if there is any discount for those forced to be on unemployment and foodstamps,were living broke . Staying at home gets real depressing and to enjoy the great outdoors would bring some joy back into our lives !

Hannah Benge

Tuesday 9th of February 2021

The info on the discount passes is all here. Are there discounts for other things that you're looking for? -Hannah

Elaine Baer

Saturday 14th of November 2020

Dear Nicole: I read your entire website and I want to give you a big hug and a bigger "Thank You" from the bottom of my toes. My husband and I had things fairly easy for the last 25 years. There were hard times too. But nothing could have prepared us for 2018. We lost our condo in Malibu in the wildfires. Jim's mom has a house in Tacoma and we have been here since the fires. Then Jim got cancer. Then I got a very progressive breast cancer and am finishing chemo not, then 3 surgeries afterwards. I was looking for a low cost dental cleaning for our 6 lb Yorkie. We really don't want to put her under. We are in Pierce County and I will call the referrals on your site. I just wanted to say again, what a stellar job and effort you do. I appreciate it and all good things are coming your way. God Bless. Elaine Baer

Hannah Benge

Monday 16th of November 2020

Thank you so much Elaine! We are sorry to hear all the trials you've gone through, but we are sincerely glad that we were able to help. There is nothing we want more! Thank you again! -Hannah

amy hernandez

Sunday 2nd of June 2019

Hello I am not sure what you guys do but I am praying that you can help me and my 2 girls. I am disabled and alone with their father owing close to forty thousand in child support. I have diligently tried for many, many years to get social services to enforce the arrears, etc., without any luck whatsoever. Sadly, we do nothing and month after month, continue to suffer and struggle without enough income to really make it through to the end of each month. Right now we are in need of help once again, thus I reach out to try and find some place that may be able to help. I know my needs are broad right now but I do not expect to have all the help from just one place, although i am praying I find some of it, at least enough that we can breath in and so that I can breath and release some of the tremendous stress that I am feeling all alone and feeling so bad. I pray that God lands this very email in the hands that it needs to land in so that we may be relieved of some of the nightmares that we are presently dealing with.

in 2016 I got all my teeth out and got dentures. I HATE THEM NEVER WEAR THEM and my quality of life is near ZERO. I can not even get out of bed for my depression. I feel like a 100 year old and feel I look so bad. I never got used to them, hate them and WANT DENTAL DENTURE IMPLANTS. I can not eat and they teeth are too big and bulky and they come out and I can not wear them at all. I tried gluing them still TERRIBLE. I am ashamed of them, how I look with them, and more without them> I read about how you can not implant the dentures, can the set I have be used for implants so I can save some money? How much is full set if i had to pay? Are there any places that will help low income (SSI disabled_) I am 54 and feel so ugly. I want to have a quality of life maybe find a new love and enjoy life again. Now I feel I am just literally waiting for death. I know that is so hard to understand but it is the honest, from my heart truth. Please try to give me as much Information as possible. REALLY REALLY AM BEGGING FOR YOUR HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would even make monthly payments if I can afford them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT IS HOW BAD I DESIRE THEM. My entire family tries to reassure me but I know its just to make me try to feel better, inside deep down I AM TERRIBLY MISERABLE!!!!!!!!!!! You can use me as a commercial or poster, if you will help me out and find the way to help me pay for them I would owe you SO MUCH!!!!!!!! I am so direly in need of help as well as my daughter as I explain down below. We get only my SSI check monthly of 771.00 and there are 3 of us. At this time we barely are making bills and being able to eat. I always run completely out of money and food stamps and most months, we live without items that no human being really should EVER HAVE to. We have to forego many products that we simply just can't afford that many others would totally take so for granted. We all three are struggling from month to month and suffer way more than most, and I have no family to help us out nor does their father pay any child support. He owes us nearly forty grand and cares less if we live or die it seems to us. I have tried very very hard to pursue the child support, have had an active and open case at my local social services, but no offense to anyone, they have cared less about the money and have done absolutely nothing to help me get the money.

I also have a 24 year old child that is in need of braces and possible other work as well and she does not have any medicaid, any insurance, or does she work. We are in the processing of trying to fight and win back her SSI, thus medicaid if we win, but at this time she has no way of paying for the services she needs. At 16, I was shown as was she, that she supposedly has another entire set of teeth in her top gums that we have never been able to address either. She has been experiencing much pain now and lately as well as a very huge bout of low self image, self esteem, and terrible (much worse depression) all of which is making her a very quiet, withdrawn, and very very sad person who does not have any desire to even participate in life anymore, much less live her age!!!! SHE IS ONLY 24!!!!! Her disabilities are ADHD, learning disabled, and developmentally delayed severly. We are trying hard, after God lead us to a local attorney who was willing to try to help us, fighting the Social Security Administration, in prayers and hopes that she will regain her SSI disability benefits as well. When they were cut some years back, it was absolutely devastating, cutting our entire income into half!!!!!

please if you can help us, email me back. WE DIRELY NEED THE HELP!!!!!!!

Amy Hernandez, North Carolina

Riley Thomson

Monday 3rd of June 2019

Amy, I'm so sorry! Your story is heartbreaking. I'm not sure about dental implants. But here is what we do have on affordable dental care. Also, here is some information on how to get more food stamps, as well as a link to our North Carolina Archive so you can see what resources we have found in your area. You could also try 211.org for more resources. I hope this helps. Remember, you are beautiful. You are important, and you have value in this world!!!!!! -Riley

Rose Dominguez

Wednesday 9th of May 2018

Hi how do i get a disable pass discount here thanks

Nicole

Friday 1st of June 2018

Hi, Rose! I edited this article to add more information on that. You can bring evidence of your disability with you to a federal recreation site (National Park or other) to pick up the pass. You can also apply through the mail but there is a $10 processing fee for that. You can click here for more information on the Recreation.gov site. Thanks for asking! :)

Flora Spivey

Friday 23rd of March 2018

How do I get a disability pass for state parks in Indiana

Nicole

Monday 4th of June 2018

Hi, Flora! Chloe just finished our State Parks series, so you should be able to find that info here: https://lowincomerelief.com/state-parks