Free National Parks Pass

Now that the weather has warmed up, it is the perfect time to look for outdoor activities.  Thankfully, the National Parks Service offers free annual passes to military servicemembers and their families.  The pass is called America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreation Area.


The free annual pass is available to US military members and their dependents.  It is also available to most members of the US Reserves and National Guard. Proper military ID is required (CAC Card or DoD Form 1173).  (I’ll admit that I don’t completely understand the rules for the Reserves and the National Guard – you should probably call the site you plan to visit to confirm eligibility and necessary documents before you go.)


A free annual entrance pass to National Parks Service parks, Fish and Wildlife Service parks, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites.  The pass admits the pass owners and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle at sites that charge per vehicle, or the pass owner and up to additional 3 adults at sites that charge per person.  There are no entry fees for children 15 and under.

The pass does not cover or provide a discount on extra amenity fees such as camping, boat launch or interpretive fees.


Passes can be obtained in person at federal recreation sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.  A list of sites that sell pass is available.   Sites that issue the Annual Pass will generally also issue the free US military version as well, but please confirm this before travelling.

For the most complete details, see the website at

I hope to hear that some of you are able to use this great offer!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • George

    From what I understand, this is also offered to veterans of all wars & conflicts. I’m surprised that it wasn’t mentioned here, after all, we led the way….

    • Joe

      From the website:
      Are there any benefits for veterans?
      There is not a pass specifically for veterans; however, many veterans qualify for one of the other discount passes offered as part of our pass program.

      If you are 62 or older you qualify for a Senior Pass. You can buy a Senior Pass in person from a participating Federal recreation site or office or by mail.

      If you have a permanent disability you may qualify for an Access Pass. This is a free lifetime pass that you may obtain in person from a participating Federal recreation site or office or by mail.


      Sounds like a raw deal to me. This should be open to veterans as well.

      • Jayne

        Should be available to all veterans. Look at the majority age group of veterans and that is those 65 and under that this administration is constantly wanting to raise rates & take benefits away.

  • Lois Ferree

    I guess the veterans that paved the way still are paying.

  • Ralph

    As always the Vietnam veterans get no recognition for their service and sacrifice.
    As with other programs.

  • sand sailor

    As a consumer and multi conflict combat veteran I see that more consideration is given to students and seniors. Obviously pays to be going to school or getting old, not fighting for freedom. Go blue team!

  • I just inquired and was told there are no discounts available at this time for Veterans… But they did thank me for my service – and we all know how much that is worth….

    • Kate

      Mr. Vazquez, you were told correctly. There is not a current program for Veterans. However, senior citizens (aged 62 or over) are eligible for a $10 America the Beautiful pass, and disabled veterans can obtain the pass for free.

      • Elaine

        If you’re 100% SC you get free passes to Federal parks. I know because I did it this sumer.

      • Wondering

        How much of a disability must I have for a free pass?

  • Linda

    How about retired military? My husband served 24 years but is not yet 65.

    • Duke

      Active duty and reservists – yes. Retired military – no. If it were only active duty I would understand. But reservists (some of whom do their once a month drill and that’s it) get a free pass and a 30 year combat vet doesn’t? That’s not right in my book.