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Everything You Need To Know About the America The Beautiful Annual Pass | A Comprehensive Guide


Learning to use the America The Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass to its full potential.


Table of Contents:

Do I Need a Pass to Get Into the National Parks?

Which Places Can the America The Beautiful Pass Get Me Into?

What doesn't the America The Beautiful Pass Get Me Into?

How Much Does the America The Beautiful Pass Cost?

Where Do I Buy the America The Beautiful Pass?

How Often Do I Need To Renew the America The Beautiful Pass?

Can More Than One Person Share a National Park Pass?

How Many People will the America The Beautiful Pass Cover?


Driving into a National Park has such an iconic feel. The landscape before you displaying all its beauty. Those classic brown signs announcing where you are. Going through the entrance and seeing the rustic visitor centers and other neat buildings.

It truly is a great experience.

And like most great attractions, it costs some money to get in.

If you regularly visit the National Parks, then it makes sense to get a park pass.

Today, I’m going to discus the benefits of getting the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. That's the long official name for the pass. Most people will refer to it as simply the America The Beautiful Pass or National Park Pass since that is what it is most commonly used for.

Under the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, there are a few subcategories of passes. As I mentioned before, I will be discussing the Annual Pass. The other passes in the America the Beautiful collection include the Military Pass, Handicap Access Pass, and the Senior Pass. These versions of the America The Beautiful Pass will get you into all the same areas, but are specific to your needs and are free for those who qualify.

Do I Even Need a Pass to Get Into the National Parks?

The short answer is no.

When you enter a park, you’ll typically need to pay an entrance or visitor fee. Some parks don’t have this fee, some have extra fees, and some places only charge for parking.

If you frequent the National Parks and other federal recreational area, then getting a pass will save you lots of money.

Plus you look ten times more outdoorsy with a park pass hanging from your rear view mirror.

As I mentioned before, I’m going to be discussing the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.

So Which Places Can This Pass Get You Into?

As the name of the pass implies, this park pass gets you into more than just National Parks. In total, there are over 2,000 federal recreation sites that this pass covers. That’s a lot of exploring to be done!

Since this pass is accepted by multiple feeders agencies, it is considered an Interagency Pass. Below, I have listed the six agencies that will accept the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.

  1. National Parks Service

  2. U.S. Forest Service

  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  4. Bureau of Land Management

  5. Bureau of Reclamation

  6. U.S. Corps of Engineers

Some examples of these places would include:

  • National Monuments such as Dinosaur National Monument

  • National Forests such as Olympic National Forest

  • National Seashores such as Cape Cod National Seashore

  • National Lakeshores such as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

  • National Historic Sites such as Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace National Historic Sight

  • National Recreation Areas such as Amistad National Recreational Area

  • Recreational areas run by the US Army Corps of Engineers such as Allatoona Lake

  • National Memorials such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial

  • Recreational areas run by Bureau Of Land Management such as the Salt Lake BLM lands

  • Recreational areas run by Fish and Wildlife Service such as Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

There are passes available for each specific National Park if you only frequent one of them and don't feel the need for this abundance of exploring opportunities. But I encourage you to visit more than just one!

What Doesn’t this Pass Cover?

The America the Beautiful Pass gets you into a lot of really neat places. However, it isn’t accepted everywhere.

For example, this pass won’t cover State Parks. For those, you should look into getting a Discover Pass. More on this in another post.

The America the Beautiful Annual Pass is specifically for federal lands, which is why State Parks are not covered. Similarly, this pass is not valid at city or county recreational areas.

Some Federal Recreational areas won’t charge an entrance fee but you are required to pay for parking. For this type of situation, you won’t be able to use the America the Beautiful Pass.

The first example of this that comes to mind is Mount Rushmore National Memorial. In order to see the Monument, you have to park in the parking garage which has a mandatory fee based on how long you stay. Other than that, there is no entrance fee.

Other fees that are not covered by the America the Beautiful Pass include any Expanded Amenity fees such as for camping, special tours, boat launching, ferries, or special permits. You will still need to pay for these extra services to use them since they are not covered by passes.

Additionally, some Federal Recreational Lands offer facilities and activities run by private concessionaires. Any fees they may charge are not covered by a pass either.

How Much Does it Cost?

I’m sure this is the question on many of your minds right about now.

The grand total for the America the Beautiful Annual Pass is only $80!

As a comparison, Zion National Park charges $70 for its annual pass, but that’s only usable when you go to Zion. It costs just $10 more to get access to over 2,000 locations.

If you were to visit the National Parks without an annual pass of any sort, you could be spending around $30 per vehicle per visit.

As you can see, the America the Beautiful Annual Pass really pays off quickly.

How do I Buy this Pass?

These passes are available for sale in-person at all National parks visitor centers and entrances, along with at any other staffed location that accepts the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.

You could also purchase your pass online at the USGS store or over the phone by calling 1-888-275-8747.

Some certified resellers will sell passes such as the America The Beautiful Pass. One such reseller is

Anyone 16 years of age or older can purchase an America the Beautiful Annual Pass. Anyone under the age of 16 is considered a child and will get free admittance.

How Often do I Need to Renew this Pass?

Like most passes, the America the Beautiful Annual Pass is good for 12 months.

Keep in mind that the Annual Pass will expire on the last day of the 12th month from the time of purchase.

You don't necessarily renew the Annual Pass. Rather, you get a whole new pass representing the new year. To do this, you can follow the same process you did when you first got your Annual Pass. Remember, this can be done over the phone, online, or in person.

Can There be More Than One Pass Owner?

Two people can be considered pass owners of the same pass. These two owners do not need to be related or married for this to work.

Both pass owners will need to be registered as pass holders and may need to show photo ID for entrance for verification.

Do not share your pass with other people who are not registered as the pass owners.

How Many People Can be Admitted with This Pass?

For any location that charges per-person fees, this pass will cover the pass owner (or owners) and three additional adult passengers, but not to exceed 4 adults in total.

Children under the age of 16 are always free so do not count towards your three passengers.

At locations that charge per vehicle, the pass will cover the entire vehicle.

If you are traveling with a group and some of them are in a separate vehicle, your pass will not cover them. Remember, the pass is only good for one vehicle or 3 other adults.

If you and the other pass holder are visiting on separate motorcycles, both pass owners must enter at the same time to be covered by the same pass. You can also has passengers on your motorcycles that will be covered by the pass.

What Do I Do With the Pass Once I Get It?

Once you get your Annual Pass, you'll need to be sure to have the physical pass on hand whenever you enter the National Park or Recreational Area you are visiting. Your pass should come with a small "hangtag" so you can hang the pass from your rear view mirror. You can get one of these hangtags from any location that sells the pass.

an america the beautiful annual national park pass hanging correctly from a rear view mirror using the provided hangtag
Make sure to keep your America The Beautiful Pass in your window for the Park Rangers to easily see.

If you have an open-topped vehicle such as a jeep with no roof or a motorcycle, you probably don't have a good place to hang the hangtag without it blowing off. If that's your situation, you can get a free window decal that acts as proof of payment. To get this proof of payment decal, you will need to show your physical pass, drivers license, and vehicle registration to the Park Ranger at the park entrance, so make sure you have those all readily available. The decal simply shows the Park Rangers that you paid since you won't be displaying your Annual pass in a hangtag like visitors in cars would.

In Conclusion...

If you are a frequent visitor of the National Parks or the 2,000 other participating recreational areas, then the America The Beautiful Annual Pass is definitely for you.

With a price of only $80, this pass will pay off within three National Park visits. In addition to the great price, the process of getting the pass is really simple which makes it double awesome.

With as much traveling we do, getting the America The Beautiful Annual Pass was a must.

I hope this gave you some good insights about the America The Beautiful Annual Pass and inspires you to start traveling more!

After you get your America The Beautiful Annual Pass, head over to this post to see what the best times to go to each National Park are so you can start planning you next trip!

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Meet the Author


Hey! I'm Kaitlynn, a lover of the outdoors and all things travel. I quit my job to travel full-time with my husband, Matthew, in our skoolie. 

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Matt & Kate

Project 63 

Bringing you travel information and inspiration as we travel to all 63 National Parks.

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