Is The National Park Service Senior Pass Worth The Price?

February 19, 2022

Two words: you bet!  National Park Service (NPS) passes cover entrance fees, standard day-use fees, and provides discounts on other fees. An annual Senior Pass is just $20 and a lifetime pass is $80. It’s a great way to save money and support the NPS.

How does the Senior Pass work?

US citizens or permanent residents age 62 or older can purchase Senior Passes that offer free admission and discounts. Travel companions can also receive free admission and discounts (with some restrictions). According to the NPS:

“The Senior Passes admit pass owner/s and passengers in a noncommercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas and pass owner plus three adults, not to exceed four adults, where per-person fees are charged. (Children under 16 are always admitted free.) Also, at many sites, the Senior Passes provide the pass owner (only) a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees (such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours).”

The NPS allows seniors to exchange 4 annual passes purchased in previous years for a lifetime pass, so make sure to save your annual passes just in case you want to upgrade.  Note: you must make an in-person visit to an NPS site that sells/issues passes to complete your exchange.  It can’t be done by mail.

Where can I buy an NPS Senior Pass?

Buy your pass in person at any federal recreation site – including national parks – that charges and entrance fee or amenity fee.  Bring proof of age and residency.  Search here by state to see where passes are available. Make sure to contact the facility to verify dates and times they’re open.

You can also purchase your Senior Lifetime Pass or Senior Annual Pass by mail through the USGS online store, but note that there’s an extra $10 processing fee, and orders may take up to 10 business days to ship.

Where can I use my Senior Pass?

There are 423 national park sites, including 63 national parks. Your pass is also valid at more than 2,000 federally-owned recreation sites that are maintained by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service and US Army Corps of Engineers.

This 45-page PDF contains a list of places you can use your Senior Pass and/or purchase a pass.

How Does the NPS use the Money?

Entrance fees, pass fees, and donations are an important source of revenue for our national parks. Each year, at least 300 million visitors come to national parks looking for beautiful scenery and a fun experience. Unfortunately, park budget growth hasn’t kept up with visitor growth or the expansion of the system in recent years.

The NPS currently has almost $12 billion in deferred maintenance needed to maintain/upgrade roads, buildings, and other park facilities. The revenue from park passes is used to enhance facilities, maintain trails, improve visitor experience, and on basic upkeep.

Stay Safe When Traveling

Travel is fun, but be careful: outdoor activities can be hazardous. In September 2021, two brothers (age 67 and 74) went missing during a 4-night backcountry canoe trip in Yellowstone National Park. One brother died of hypothermia, and the NPS scaled back search and recovery efforts for the other brother several weeks later.

In an emergency, it’s important to be able to communicate your location and condition to rescuers.

Our SOS Smartwatch can help.  It’s equipped with GPS, and has its own 4G LTE sim card that supports clear, reliable communication and location data.  It’s a terrific option for active seniors who love travel and the outdoors. When you push the SOS button, the watch sends your location data to our monitoring center. The watch supports two-way communication, so you can explain your situation to our operators. It also has a step counter and features that allow you to set fitness goals and check your progress.

Learn more about our SOS Smartwatch or call us at 1-877-522-9633 to learn how you can try it risk-free for 30 days.

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