If you recently bought a National Parks Pass you might be wondering if it can be used at state parks as well. Together we will learn where you can and cannot use National Park Passes and why.
Unfortunately, the National Parks Pass, a.k.a. the America the Beautiful Pass cannot be used for state parks. National parks are governed by the federal government while state parks are governed by the individual states. A separate state parks pass or use fee will be required for the state parks you plan to visit.
Having a national parks pass will not get you into state parks. However, there are many areas you may not be aware of that a national parks pass will benefit you. Let’s explore the difference between park passes on a state and national level.
National parks are controlled by the federal government, and each national park requires fees from the visitors. State parks are operated by the state government that it is located in. Many state parks are free to use by the public.
There are 63 national parks in the US and 423 units of the National Park System. If you buy an America the Beautiful park pass you will be able to visit any of the 423 units, including all 63 National Parks, in the United States for a year. This can be extremely helpful for those traveling through national parks, or those who wish to spend quality time in the environment of the park.
While the upfront cost of $80 for a national park pass may seem steep it will save you money on any entrance fees at the parks. Entrance costs alone average around $30 per vehicle. Even if you plan to visit just one park, you can do so multiple times throughout the year without constantly paying fees.
By my count, as of this writing, there are 2,322 state parks in the US and many of these offer free day use for the visitors. For the state parks that require a use fee, many states offer an Annual State Parks Pass at a reasonable rate. With a state park pass, you will be able to visit any state park in your state.
The state park pass fees vary from state to state and range in price from free to more than $200 depending on the state. Out of the 50 states, 12 do not have entrance fees for state parks. In the states that charge entrance fees the cost to enter a state park range in price from two dollars to twenty dollars.
The national parks passes are worth the money if you plan to spend a lot of time visiting one or more of the national parks. For certain individuals, a pass may be acquired for free or at a reduced cost.
In addition to the 63 national parks that the America the Beautiful pass covers you also have access to:
- National wildlife refuges
- National forest and grasslands
- Bureau of Land Management
- Bureau of Reclamation Lands
- US Army Corps of Engineers
- National Monuments
The pass covers more than entrance fees and day-use fees. In some cases, you will be able to use your America the Beautiful pass for a reduced campsite fee.
There are other annual and lifetime passes that are free for certain people. These include:
- The Military Pass- The military pass is a free annual national parks pass available for all US military service members, veterans and family members
- Access Pass- The access pass is another free pass available to people who have a permanent disability and are US citizens or permanent residents. It is a lifetime pass.
- Senior Parks Pass- If you purchase it will cost $80 for a lifetime pass or $20 for an Annual pass.
- Volunteer Parks Pass– If you have accumulated at least 250 hours of volunteer time at any national park you may be eligible for this free pass.
The National Parks system also offers a free seasonal pass to all fourth-grade students who complete the Every Kid Outdoors application. Now, this pass is special because all children under the age of 15 are admitted free to our national parks.
What this pass does is allow the fourth graders’ entire family access to the parks while the child is present. It also allows guardians and teachers access when accompanying 4th-grade children.
Even though you cannot use the National Parks Pass at state parks they are still well worth the money. If you live in a state that does charge state park fees and you plan to visit those sites often you may wish to look into a State Parks Pass.
No matter what type of parks you plan on visiting, the cost of the park passes you obtain will be helping these agencies maintain and protect our beautiful wild lands.