National parks enrich our lives. They reconnect us with the beauty of nature and how nice it feels to leave technology and our high-speed lives behind, if only for a little while.
With national parks all over the country, you might be interested in a senior park pass. How do you get such a pass and how much does it cost?
A National Park Pass (called the American The Beautiful pass) can be purchased through the National Park Service. As of 2023, the price of the American The Beautiful pass is $80 for a Lifetime Pass or $20 for an Annual Pass for the elderly on a tight budget, and provides free admission to more than 2,000 federal parks and recreation sites nationwide.
Today’s article will explain everything you need to know about obtaining a national park pass for seniors.
Whether you’re still working and looking for something to do on the weekends or you’re newly retired and want a great way to spend your time, this article is for you!
How Can I Get A Senior Pass To National Parks?
The NPS’s Senior Pass is available to permanent residents and U.S. citizens 62 years old and older. You have two options for obtaining the pass, either purchasing it online or in person.
Let’s talk more about each option.
Buying A Senior Pass Online
The USGS website accepts Visa, Discover, Mastercard, and American Express payment options. You’ll go through a secure checkout process and receive a confirmation email after you complete your order.
Buying A Senior Pass In Person
If you’d rather not shop online, you can always find an NPS park throughout the US by using this official resource. You can narrow your search by the type of pass you’re interested in, your state, or by a federal agency.
Whether you purchase a senior pass to a national park online or in person, you must verify your US citizenship or green card and provide documentation of age.
How Much Is The National Park Pass For Seniors?
The National Park Pass was $10 for many years. However, in 2017, the NPS increased the price for the first time since 1994. It wasn’t a small price jump either, but a rise of $70.
As of this writing, the Lifetime Senior Pass now costs $80. You won’t have to pay that fee again, but the cost is a little steep if you were still expecting the pass to only cost $10.
You can also pay by the year if that’s more affordable for you.
The Annual Senior Pass costs only $20, but you have to renew it each year you’re interested in continuing to visit NPS parks with a pass.
Who is covered by the pass?
Each pass covers entrance fees at lands managed by the National Park Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service and also standard amenity fees (day use fees) at lands managed by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers the pass owner and all occupants in a personal vehicle at sites that charge per vehicle or, the pass owner and up to three additional adults (16 and over) at sites that charge per person. Children ages 15 or under are admitted free.National Park Service website
TIP: if you are a military veterans or a Gold Star family with a Gold Start Family Voucher, you can get a Military Lifetime Pass for FREE as a way to thank you for your service to our country!
What Is The Difference Between America The Beautiful Pass And A Senior Pass?
The Senior Pass now has a super-long name. It’s officially called the “America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass,” in full.
It has replaced the Golden Age Passports (*which are still valid for a lifetime, but the pass holder can now exchange this one for the America The Beautiful pass (for no additional fee) by showing proper identification, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate).
America the Beautiful National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Passes as a whole are for park visitors of all ages.
There are a variety of passes available.
For example, fourth-grade students can receive a version of the pass to begin learning about the importance of our national parks from a young age.
Other varieties of the America the Beautiful National Parks & Federal Recreational Land Passes include:
- Access Pass for the handicapped
- Annual Senior Pass for the elderly
- Lifetime Senior Pass for the elderly (go here to get these interagency passes)
- Military Pass for current military members and their dependents
- Yearly Annual Pass (annual passes are “valid for 12 months from the month of purchase, expiring the last day of that month“, per the official USGS Store.)
The difference is the age limit. Other America the Beautiful Passes have differing criteria for membership whereas a Senior Pass requires an adult to be over the age of 62. Proof of age is required.
What Are The Benefits Of A Lifetime National Park Pass?
Are you strongly considering a Lifetime Senior Pass to NPS parks, but you’re still on the fence?
Check out this list of benefits, as it just could convince you, if the ability to enjoy the beauty of our national parks hasn’t done so already.
As we discussed earlier, if you purchase only the Annual Senior Pass, you’ll pay $20 year after year. Let’s say you renew that annual pass five times over. That’s already $100 for five years!
If you purchase the Lifetime Senior Pass instead, you only pay the $80 fee once. In five years, you’ll still have only paid $80.
In 10 years, that wouldn’t change, whereas after 10 years of an Annual Senior Pass, you’d have shelled out $200 by then.
The initial fee of the Annual Lifetime Pass may be $60 higher, but the value of the pass pays for itself in only a few years compared to purchasing the Annual Senior Pass.
Access To Over 2,000 Parks
As a bonafide cardholder of an NPS pass, you now have access to well over 2,000 federal recreation sites and parks throughout the country.
You can start with the parks in your state, then move to adjoining states or travel the country, road-tripping and exploring new parks along the way.
It doesn’t matter where in the US you roam. If it’s a federal park managed by the NPS, you don’t have to pay to get in.
That’s a tremendous feeling, especially for seniors who may be budgeting for retirement or are living a lower-cost retirement lifestyle.
Discounts To Amenities And Activities
Carrying a Senior Pass grants you transportation in a private or single non-commercial vehicle. Further, you may receive discounted amenities and activities when you visit a park.
You can often also save money on guided tours, boating, swimming, and camping.
Spend More Time In Nature
Do you know how much time the average person spends indoors over their lifetime? Up to 90 percent of their time, reports Fast Company.
The Environmental Protection Agency suggests that it could be as much as 93 percent of our lives. We spend six percent of our lives in our vehicles and then another 87 percent in our homes and offices.
If you’ve recently retired, you can finally buck that trend. You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, so you’re free to go outside any day you wish.
Spending time outdoors helps seniors in a variety of ways. A study entitled The Benefits of Nearby Nature in Cities for Older Adults found these benefits:
- Spending time outdoors once weekly at least might help a senior maintain their physical functions like dressing and bathing. A cited study involving more than 1,800 participants 65 and older found that seniors had a harder time with these tasks the less they went outside.
- Time outdoors can reduce your cortisol levels, helping you keep stress at bay. The report cited a study involving South Korean cognitive behavioral therapy patients with hypertension. The participants spent three days in a forest and meditated and walked. They had less cortisol compared to a group of program participants that didn’t visit the forest.
- Being outside in green space can improve mental restoration, especially the more time you spend outside.
Seniors can engage in more social interactions with fellow park goers or with the group they’re visiting the park with, which is another key benefit!
Keeps You Active, Which Could In Turn Keep You Young
You don’t have to participate in arduous hikes to make spending time outside a good venture for your health! Even if you simply walk around a park, you’re still doing your health a myriad of favors.
The same study I referred to in the prior section – The Benefits of Nearby Nature in Cities for Older Adults – reports in cited research a correlation between longevity and light outdoor exercise.
According to the data, senior citizens who had access to city or state parks and greenspace and used it for walking had a higher longevity rate over the study period of five years.
In another study cited in the report, when participants 70 and older went for a walk outside every day, they had less urinary incontinence, sleep issues, and musculoskeletal pain than a group of seniors who didn’t.
Exercise for seniors has so many advantages. You’ll maintain a healthier weight, putting less strain on your heart, joints, and bones.
You’ll also be able to maintain your physical abilities to take care of yourself for longer, says The Benefits of Nearby Nature in Cities for Older Adults report.
Mentally, you could be in better shape too. Another cited study in the report involving participants 60 and older found that one-third of the participants who exercised daily had a more positive outlook.
The report states that “Those who exercise daily are much more likely than those who never exercise to say the past year of their life has been better than normal (28%) rather than worse (15%).”
A National Park Pass for seniors through the NPS is a low-cost way to experience the beauty of nature in your own backyard or across the country.
Buying a pass, either annually or for life, grants you free entry to the parks and entitles you to a discounted rate on activities and amenities (for example, camping discounts).
You can greatly benefit your physical and mental health and even your longevity by spending more time outside, so we hope you’ll consider a National Park Pass!