The National Park Service manages more than 400 areas covering more than 85 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, and in the U.S. territories. These areas include national parks, monuments, battlefields, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas and more.
Each year, more than 300 million people visit America’s national parks. They engage in many different activities, but in each place come face-to-face with American heritage, history and immense natural beauty.
Free Admission to National Parks with Access Pass
People with disabilities interested in visiting national parks can benefit from the America the Beautiful Access Pass, a free, lifetime pass that is available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability (does not have to be a 100% disability). The Access Pass provides admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies, including many of the most-visited national parks.
The Access Pass can be obtained on-site at many federal recreation areas, or it can be ordered online by paying a $10 processing fee. The following documentation is accepted to prove a permanent disability:
- Statement by a licensed physician (Statement must include: that the individual has a PERMANENT disability, that it limits one or more aspects of their daily life, and the nature of those limitations.);
- Document issued by Federal agency such as the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Security Income;
- Document issued by a State agency such as a vocational rehabilitation agency.
I acquired my Access Pass at a national park and, due to my clearly visible disability (amputated limbs), no documentation was requested. The National Park Service ranger simply asked for my name and signature, then handed me an Access Pass card.
Using the Access Pass — Where It’s Accepted
The Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corps of Engineers honor the Access Pass at sites where entrance, standard amenity or day use fees are charged. The Access Pass may also provide a discount on some expanded amenity fees, such as camping — squire locally about any additional benefits or discounts.
The following national parks charge a per-vehicle fee for entry. With the Access Pass, the pass holder and any passengers in a single private vehicle are admitted without charge.
- $35 — Bryce Canyon (Utah); Glacier (Montana); Grand Canyon (Arizona); Grand Teton (Wyoming); Kings Canyon & Sequoia (California); Yellowstone (Idaho/Montana/Wyoming); Yosemite (California); Zion (Utah).
- $30 — Acadia (Maine); Arches (Utah); Big Bend (Texas); Canyonlands (Utah); Death Valley (California/Nevada); Everglades (Florida); Joshua Tree (California); Lassen Volcanic (California); Mount Rainier (Washington); Olympic (Washington); Pinnacles (California); Shenandoah (Virginia); Theodore Roosevelt (North Dakota).
- $25 — Badlands (South Dakota); Crater Lake (Oregon); Great Sand Dunes (Colorado); Haleakalā (Hawaii); Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii); Mesa Verde (Colorado); Rocky Mountain (Colorado).
- $20 — Black Canyon of the Gunnison (Colorado); Capitol Reef (Utah); Petrified Forest (Arizona); Saguaro (Arizona).
- $6 — Indiana Dunes (Indiana).
The following national parks charge a per-person entrance fee. With the Access Pass, the pass holder and up to 3 adults are admitted without charge.
- $15 — Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico); Dry Tortugas (Florida).
- $10 — Denali (Alaska).
- $7 — Isle Royale (Michigan).
- $5 — Guadalupe Mountains (Texas).
- $3 — Gateway Arch (Missouri).
The Access Pass can also be used at other federal recreation areas that are not labeled national parks. The Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is one such example, where the $15 per person admission fee is waived for Access Pass owners and up to 3 companions.
In addition to admission fees, the Access Pass may provide discounts on the following expanded amenities:
- Individual Campsites: The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsite(s) occupied by members of the pass owner’s party.
- Campsites with Utility Hookups: If utility fees are charged separately, there is no discount. The discount may apply if the utility fee is combined (seamless) with the campsite fee.
- Group Campsites and Facilities (including, but not limited to, group facilities, picnic areas or pavilions): There is no discount for group campsites and other group facilities that charge a flat fee. If the group campsite has a per person fee rate, only the pass owner receives a discount; others using the site pay the full fee.
- Guided Tours: The pass offers discounts on some guided tours. Only the pass owner receives a discount if one is offered.
- Attractions & Special Events: (Inquire Locally)
- Transportation Systems: (Inquire Locally)
- Concessionaire Fees: (Inquire Locally)
- Special Use Permit Fees: (Inquire Locally)
Be sure to visit the National Park Service website for information on the 419 parks, units and venues that make up America’s national park system. Answers to common questions concerning the Access Pass can be found in this FAQ document.
Where will you go with your Access Pass?
Let me know in the comments below!