Seniors: Get Your US National Parks Lifetime Pass Now Or Pay More Later

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

Imagine that you could buy a lifetime pass to the the airline club of your choice for less than the cost of a single visit. And that it not only covered your own entrance fee, but also everyone in your party.

You’d jump on it, right?

Well, that is essentially the deal that the United States government offers senior citizens for entry into our national parks. For as long as I can remember, seniors have been able to purchase a lifetime pass to our national lands for $10. Not only does it get them into the park, it also includes entry for everyone in their vehicle. Most of the big parks like Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite charge $30 for a 7-day pass, so this is obviously an incredible bargain.

But it’s about to get a lot more expensive since President Obama signed the National Park Centennial Act. This will raise the price of a senior pass from $10 to $80. Sure, it’ll still be a great value, but if you can still get it for $10, why not?

National Parks Senior Pass

How do I get a Senior Pass?

It’s pretty easy to get the pass and there are two ways to go about it:

In the past, I would have advised seniors to pick up the pass at the first site they visited after turning 62. That process is generally easier and doesn’t involve any paperwork since they just confirm your eligibility and issue you a pass on the spot.

The other option is to buy it online. In this case, you need to include a copy of a photo ID so they can verify your age. They also charge a $10 processing in addition to the $10 fee for the pass, effectively doubling the price. Even so, for those who don’t live near a National Park, this is probably the best option.

Our (much smaller) family at Denali National Park during Road Lottery

When is the price going up?

We don’t actually know. The bill was recently signed into law, but not much happens overnight when it comes to the government. Forms and processes need to be updated. The website needs to be changed. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, there’s a whole new administration about to take over, which generally means that just about everything grinds to a halt until that happens.

That said, if you’re eligible and won’t be near a National Park in the near future, I would suggest spending the extra $10 and applying by mail now. If you’re about to turn 62, I’d have your application ready to mail on your birthday.

Where can you use the Parks Pass?

The Department of the Interior (National Parks and Monuments) and the Department of Agriculture (National Forests) finally got their act together and started issuing a common pass several years ago. That eliminated a lot of the confusion about where you could and could not use your pass.

Nowadays, they are generally good at National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests, National Historic Sites, National Recreation Areas, and so on. Here’s the official language:

The Pass can be used at over 2000 Federal recreation sites across the nation, including National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and many National Forest lands. The Senior Pass admits the Pass owner and any passengers traveling with him/her in a non-commercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas or the Pass owner and three additional adults where per-person fees are charged. The Senior Pass may also offer a discount on some expanded amenity fees, such as camping. Discounts offered by the Pass vary widely across the many different types of recreation sites. Pass owners are encouraged to check with sites they plan to visit before obtaining a pass to verify that their Pass will be accepted. Anytime a Pass is used, photo identification will be requested to verify Pass ownership.

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park

My experience

I’m not yet 62 so I don’t have a pass. But my Dad got one about a decade ago and loves it. I think that getting his lifetime senior pass was probably the one thing he was most excited about as he approached retirement age. (and cashing his first social security check, of course!)

When he and my mom come to visit we pile into the van and all seven of us get into national parks for free. He literally just flashes his pass at the entrance station and we drive through.

I think we’re going to get my father-in-law his pass for Christmas. And suggest he come visit us soon… don’t forget your pass Papa.

Bottom Line

The price of the lifetime senior national parks pass is soon going to increase from $10 to $80. If you’re eligible to get one and haven’t done so yet, I’d do it now.

Do you have a senior national parks pass?  Where all have you used it?

(Tip of the hat to Mommy Points)

  1. What an amazing deal! I’m trying to hit a national park each year since I’ve only been to my first this past fall.

  2. @phoenix

    To place this order online, you will be required to upload a photo or scan of documentation issued by an authorized U.S. agency that demonstrates US Citizenship or permanent residence and birthdate, such as of your driver’s license, passport, or state issued ID. These may be uploaded as a jpeg, gif, png or pdf (cannot exceed 20 MB).

  3. I have seen the statement that we have to up load a photo ID. What I haven’t seen is how or where to up load it to. Could you please advise us how to and where I can go to up load my ID. Thank You Joe

  4. Thanks for going the extra mile to Post
    This info as most of your Readers Are probably no where near the proper
    Age for this offer. I know About This incredible as My parents Had the lifetime card but I had forgotten about it until you reminded us. Thanks again for posting
    This incredible info.

  5. my in laws have one – they got it from a very nice ranger at a national park years ago. They’ve used it at a few parks and its great. A big plus is that anyone in the car with them goes in for free too.

  6. <3 the National Parks esp Yellowstone the World's 1st NP. We got our cards this summer for our Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, & Glacier tour. "National Parks -our greatest idea!"

  7. I’ve been meaning to sign-up my mom for a senior pass so now I should really DO IT. While in checkout on the USGS store, there’s a note “For all orders a $5.00 USD handling charge is applied.” I guess this is in addition to the $10 processing in addition to the $10 fee for the pass? I haven’t completed the purchase yet (need to scan a copy of my mom’s ID), but can anyone confirm if this $5.00 handling charge applies? Thank you.

  8. @Joe See you get an upload link to upload your ID after the payment goes through.

    @ro that $5 fee is included in the $20 total cost. Your total charge should be $20.

  9. In the past, I would have advised seniors to pick up the pass at the first site they visited after turning 62. That process is generally easier and doesn’t involve any paperwork since they just confirm your eligibility and issue you a pass on the spot.

    Do you know where one could do this in northern california?

  10. This past summer, I drove my parents to Texas to see my sister and her family On the way home, they decided to stop at Yosemite on the way home. I will say this. My 80 year old father have this pass and we got in for free. He had it for over 11 years. Got our money back! I am with Travis here… go get it before they raise the price. I am too young to get it so I am out of luck. I was so surprise how much it cost to visit Yosemite! Its really high. For 10 bucks for this pass, its worth it even theres a small chance that you will never use it.

  11. I live within 2 hours of 5 National Parks and it is $30/car. You don’t just flash your pass and go through. You have to show an official government ID; and they do look it over and then look at you. Just in case someone thinks they can “borrow” a relative’s pass.

  12. @Judith Cunningham

    If you are in the same car with your husband, the whole car gets in for free. If you are on your own, you will need your own card.

  13. I just ordered, had to register an account with password but did not need to upload any ID or verify my age…e-mail was sent to verify my purchase. 10 plus 5 handling and 5 shipping for “kit” came to 20.

  14. I as a Senior Citizen got a pass 2 or 3 years ago and now I can’t find it. How do I go about getting another one and put it in safe keeping. My e-mail is [email protected]
    Thanks for your help.

  15. I’ve been trying to find out how you upload your document to the online application. Anyone have instructions?…..I just get declined. There appears to be no instruction how to do this.

    Many Thanks

  16. After you do the payment the last page that tells you that you will get a statement in your email; you will find a small button for uploading the document. Look close it is small and not obvious. I almost missed it.

  17. How to upload. What I did was take a picture of my drivers license and emailed it to myself. Opened the email and moved the photo to the desktop of the computer I am using to do the online application for the senior park pass. Perform the online application at the last page after you pay you will see two small buttons labeled browse and upload. Hit browse first and locate your drivers license photo on your desktop. You will see the name of the file appear next to the upload button then hit the upload button. Thats it, maybe an easier way to do it. Need to be 62 or older.

  18. My wife and I signed up and paid for a senior pass many weeks ago and still have not received anything. Please contact me about this.

  19. Not all NPS sites sell senior passes. PLEASE call ahead to the site where you would like to purchase one. Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, MA, for example, does NOT sell them anymore.

  20. We were in Yosemite this past weekend where I purchased my Senior Pass, total cost $10.00. There were six of us, without pass cost would have been $30.00. Great Deal.

  21. I’m unable to order online. I try to open shopping basket, but it returns me to the information page. Has anyone else had this difficulty and how did you solve it?
    Thank you!

  22. I mailed in my application on March 9th of 2017 and have not received anything back. Did you receive it?
    My home address is 1360 New Life Lane Rochester Hills, MI 48309 and I am 74 years old. I did mail, to you, all the information required on the 9th of March.
    I’d really appreciate a reply…..Thanks you.

  23. I have stopped several times at various national sites. Each time they wereNOT open. I would like to purchase one. How do I do it? I stopped in Michigan and South Carolina but NO success.

  24. My husband and I have applied for senior park passes more than a month ago on the internet. We have not received any response and are making plans for a trip through the national parks in our state but we do need the passes as soon as possible Please check to tell us why we have not received our passes We stopped in parks in our area but the sites to purchase were not opened Please respond and help us–thanks

  25. I won’t turn 62 until April of 2018. I am on disability from a work accident. Do I still have to wait till I’m 62 to apply for that lifetime not in the best of health, so I would like to apply as soon as possible. Thanks. J.S.

  26. I downloaded the application and sent it in as required in April 2017. I still haven’t received it in the mail. All I received was a survey to complete and chance to join the nonprofit. When can I expect to receive my Senior Parks Pass? I’ll be 69 in a few weeks.

  27. P.S. The address that I sent my Sr. Parks Pass Application it to was in Denver, Colorado. It was a P.O. box with no other contact info.

  28. i applied for my lifetime sr pass yesterday and received confirmation, however it did not ask for age documentation. why would that be? i just went back in and uploaded my passport, however i received a message that no uploads were required at this time. what’s up?

  29. Please send me an application ASAP. I am 86 years old and want to travel some before I
    bite the dust. Thank you

  30. I ordered my senior lifetime pass in May 2017 and I finally got it today August 11, 2017.
    It took longer then the twelve weeks. We were in Arkansas a couple of weeks ago and we
    went by the Forest Headquarters in Hot Springs and bought one for $10.00 cause I was
    afraid I wouldn’t get mind cause it never showed charged on my card. If you loose your
    pass you have to pay the $80 to replace it so we decided to buy a second one just in
    case we lost the first one. My husband is not quite 62 so he can’t get one yet.

  31. My husband doesn’t turn 62 until December 2017. Can he order the pass prior to his birthday?

  32. Where is the closest place to Shawnee Kansas to buy the Senior life time pass for $10 in person/

  33. Trying to access the USGS page to get a senior lifetime pass and page can’t be accessed..
    Anyone know what’s up or an alterative web page?

  34. Ordered two lifetime passes on 8/8/20107. My wife received hers but I haven’t received mine. Anyone else having the same problem? They were ordered 1″ apart.

  35. Dear Parks — I have received a number of bills from your organization, and I thought I would save you a stamp by telling you that I have a Lifetime Senior Pass, which I have had for a long time. There is no need to send me a bill. Thank you, Helen LeMaire

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