Passes a great way to visit national parks


Kristi Langenbacher


By Kristi Langenbacher

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Although summer is winding down, there is still plenty of time to get outdoors and explore in late summer and fall. One of the best ways to do so is with by visiting national parks. The National Park Service offers free passes to active duty military members and dependents.

The America the Beautiful annual pass is available for free of charge to current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as Reserve and National Guard members. The regular cost for the annual pass is $80.

The interagency pass allows access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as day use fees at national forest and grasslands. The pass allows free entry for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas. It allows free admission for up to four adults at sites that charge per person, while children age 15 and under are admitted free.

Military passes must be obtained in person at a federal recreation site by showing military identification. They are available at numerous locations in North Carolina, including the Wright Brothers National Memorial on the Outer Banks. The passes are also available at several locations in Virginia and around the country, as listed on the National Parks web site at nps.gov. The site also provides answers to frequently asked questions.

Passes are also available to non-military members and include: Annual 4th Grade Pass, Senior Pass, Access Pass and Volunteer Pass. Details about each type of pass are available on the web site.

There is not a pass specifically for veterans, however, many veterans qualify for a discount pass such as a Senior Pass for those who are age 62 and older. A lifetime senior pass costs $80 and an annual pass for seniors costs $20 if purchased in person. Senior passes can also be purchased online or by mail for an additional cost of $10.

The Access Pass is available to many people who have permanent disabilities, and the free lifetime pass which can be obtained in person from participating Federal Recreation Sites or offices by mail.

Earlier this summer our family enjoyed time in the Olympic National Park in Washington State, and Crater Lake National Park in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon.

While we were stationed in North Carolina, our family enjoyed trips close to home to places such as the Wrights Brothers National Memorial and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

During our many cross-country moves, we enjoyed time in many National Parks, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and Glacier National Park in Montana. While living in Northern California, we have visited Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks.

The National Parks offer amazing sights and adventures to families and people of all ages all across the country.

Kristi Langenbacher is a Coast Guard spouse and writes about military family life.