On Veterans Day 2022, the National Park Service announced a lifetime pass providing free entrance to national parks for Veterans and their families. The Interagency Military Lifetime Pass waives entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites for current military service members and their dependents, Veterans and Gold Star Families.
Veterans and their families have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle—from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing, camping, and much more.
The Military Pass has been expanded to include a pass that does not expire for Veterans and Gold Star Family members. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 authorized a free lifetime pass to national parks and other federal recreational lands for eligible Veterans and Gold Star Families. In recent years, they were able to receive annual passes.
Are you eligible?
For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserve, and is able to present one of the following forms of valid (unexpired) identification:
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.
The America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (Interagency Pass) Program
The Interagency Pass Program includes a free annual pass for active-duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Current Military service members must show a valid (unexpired) Department of Defense ID. Dependents of current service members must show a valid (unexpired) DD Form 1173 AD or DEC.
Other free or discounted passes, including some lifetime passes, are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers and senior citizens age 62 years or older.
How to get your Interagency Pass
Interagency Passes can be obtained in person while visiting a participating site. Visit Places to Get Interagency Passes for a searchable list and be sure to contact the site before you go, to make sure they are open and have passes in stock. In addition, Military passes, as well as those for seniors and persons with permanent disabilities, are available online through the USGS Online Store with an additional processing fee. Existing passes remain valid. You do not need to obtain a new pass if you already have a Lifetime Senior or Access Pass.
For more information about eligibility and passes, visit Free Entrance to National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov).
The participating agencies also offer several fee-free days for everyone throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration. Examples of fee-free days include the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.
Fee-free days and fee policies vary among the agencies, so it’s best to check the agency website or contact the site you plan to visit in advance of your trip.
FYI: Mass Cultural Council maintains a listing of cultural benefits for veterans and their families, called Power of Culture for our Veterans.
Image credit: Cape Cod National Seashore. The great Outer Beach described by Thoreau in the 1800s is protected within the national seashore. Forty miles of pristine sandy beach, marshes, ponds, and uplands support diverse species. Lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and wild cranberry bogs offer a glimpse of Cape Cod’s past and continuing ways of life. From National Park Service Digital Image Archives.