If you’re planning to travel to several national parks in the USA over the course of 12 months, I have a great tip that will save you a substantial amount on entrance fees. The America the Beautiful – Annual Pass is an annual pass that provides access to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas. You pay once, and then you simply enjoy.
How the America the Beautiful Annual Pass Works
The America the Beautiful Annual Pass functions essentially as a season pass, granting unlimited visits to the parks. The pass is valid for 12 months following the month in which it is purchased.
The entire car crew can travel on one pass. If the park charges per person (not per vehicle), three additional people aged 16 and over can use the pass with the owner. Younger individuals are admitted free of charge. In practice, the three-person limit is often overlooked, and the entire car crew can enter the park with the pass.
Upon purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass, you will receive a plastic card, an information booklet, and a car tag (hangtag). These are used for identification and should be placed in a visible location behind the front window. There is a box on the card in which the holder’s name is written in marker. From 1 January 2024 there is space for one signature, until the end of 2023 two signatures will fit on the card.
The America the Beautiful Annual Pass only covers entrance to national parks. Additional charges for parking, camping, or boat rentals are separate.
Where You Can Use the America the Beautiful Annual Pass
The annual pass is valid in more than 2,000 national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, rainforests, deserts, and recreation areas. “National” equates to “federal.” America the Beautiful does not apply to state-established parks (e.g., Hearst Castle or Niagara Falls State Park).
However, the pass is valid in national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Death Valley. If you’re planning to visit at least three or four national parks, the America the Beautiful pass is well worth considering.
The official Recreation.gov website lists all the places where you can use the Annual Pass.
America the Beautiful Pass Price
The new America the Beautiful – Annual Pass costs $80.
Annual passes are also available for seniors aged 62 and older, but these can only be purchased by American citizens and permanent residents.
If you are already in the USA or Canada, you can buy a pass online. If you’re in Europe or Asia, the process for ordering is so complex that it’s worth buying your pass locally. It is sold at the information centers in each national park.