Our National Parks are something to be treasured, and the people who protect the land (and all of our country) are rewarded with free admission passes to enjoy these parks. Active-duty military personnel and their dependents, and veterans and Gold Star Families can receive free admission to our National Parks.
America the Beautiful Pass for Military and families
Current U.S. military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force, as well as Reserve and National Guard members are eligible for the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass for FREE (an $80 value).
The pass grants access to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.
For parks with a vehicle admission, the pass will cover the car in which the pass owner is riding in. For parks with a per-person admission, the pass covers the pass owner and three (3) accompanying adults age 16 and older.
No entry fee charged for children 15 and under. Pass owner and up to 3 other bicyclists can enter for free at most parks, but check in advance for the policy of each park.
Military Veterans and Gold Star Family Free Access Program
Veterans and Gold Star Families get free entrance to National Parks. The National Park Service in partnership with Operation Live Well would like to thank military personnel and their families for their service and invite them to enjoy their national parks.
Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans receive free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests. The free access program is a way to thank America’s veterans and Gold Star families for their support of our country and to encourage them to explore recreational opportunities on their public lands and waters.
Free access is for the veteran or the holder of the Gold Star Family voucher as well as travelling companions who are occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle OR the veteran or voucher-holder and three persons (16 and older) where per person fees are charged. See more details here.
Eligible Veterans, which includes individuals who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, can present one of the following forms of identification when entering a national park:
- Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)
- Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
- Veteran ID Card
- Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card
Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.
Before visiting a national park site, Gold Star Family members download and print a voucher to present to the ranger or place on the vehicle dashboard at unstaffed sites. By downloading and signing the voucher, Gold Star Family members are self-certifying that they meet the required criteria.
So where should you go?
While there are only 2 parks that are covered under this pass in Ohio, there are SO many others around the U.S. that would be free while you are traveling. Here are some popular options (and to be honest, this may just be MY National Parks wishlist!).
- Denali National Park & Preserve
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Death Valley National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
- Yosemite National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Haleakalā National Park
- Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
- Yellowstone National Park
- Acadia National Park
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Gateway Arch National Park (formerly Jefferson National Expansion Memorial)
- Glacier National Park
- Crater Lake National Park
- Badlands National Park
- Padre Island National Seashore
- Arches National Park
- Zion National Park
- Shenandoah National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Grand Teton National Park
Find more options of parks that normally charge an entrance fee.
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