National Park Pass
Did you know that individuals with disabilities are entitled to a free lifetime pass to our visit our National Parks? Well, they are. So get one! I love our national parks, and some surprising places are national parks.
When we went to the White House Easter Egg Roll, I learned that the South Lawn of the White House is actually a national park! Interesting, isn’t it? Plus, here near Philadelphia, we have so many cool places to visit within the national parks system.
Normally this would be $80 per year or as much as $25-$50 per visit.
Many people think that ALL national parks are free, but that is not the case. Around 25% of them have fees.
And, with this pass, even if the park itself does not have a fee, you could get a discount on extras (they call them amenities) such as camping or boating. If a park has a fee, I believe last time we went to the Grand Canyon, it was $25 a car, and the entire carload will get in for free.
National Park Access Pass-Disabled Person
To qualify, the person must have a diagnosed permanent disability. If someone in your family qualifies, there are a couple of ways you can obtain this. One is that you can go to a participating location and apply for it in person.
Before you go to one of those NPS locations, make sure you read what you need to bring with you as far as documentation. It will either have to be a note from a physician or notice that you are receiving SSDI income.
You can also apply via the mail, which is nice. DO NOT use this option if you need your pass in 15 days or less. What you are applying for is called an “Access Pass.” (different from the Golden Access Pass for senior citizens or disabled veterans)
How to Apply for a FREE National Parks Pass
At many sites, the Access Pass provides the pass owner a discount on Expanded Amenity Fees (such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours).
You can obtain an Access Pass in person, with proper documentation, from a participating Federal recreation site or office.
Types of National Parks Passes
National Parks passes are sold at most national parks. If the park does not charge a fee, this may not be available. So call first.
- NPS 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 – that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies.
- 4th Graders-President Obama started a wonderful program to allow 4th graders to get a pass to our National Parks.
- Senior Citizens, Veterans and Volunteers may also qualify for a free pass. Visit your local park office for more information on those specific programs.
How to Get your Free National Parks Pass
- Decide if you’re going in person or doing online. If you wish to apply online, you’ll need internet access and about a half-hour of your time. If you wish to apply in person, you have to visit one of these participating National Park Offices. Not all parks issue these passes, so make sure you check first. And, you should probably call first.
- Applying for your National Parks Pass online. Pandemic Update: Due to the pandemic, many park offices were closed and not issuing passes. Make sure you double check on their website before you visit a specific park office.
- Disability Access Pass for National Parks: Read through the instructions first and gather your documentation. You will need to upload documentation, so prepare PDFs or pictures of your documents.
- Free National Parks Pass for Volunteers– If you volunteer more than 250 hours per year, you also may qualify for a free national parks pass.
- 4th Grade National Parks Pass 4th Graders are eligible for a free pass too!
- Senior Citizens-National Parks Pass Senior Citizens get a discounted pass or a Golden Access Pass.
Activities at National Parks-Printable List
There are so many amazing things to see and do at our National Parks. Here is a printable list for you to use to plan your trip.Activities-at-National-Parks_3
National Parks Passports
My boys also have National Parks Passports. These are completely separate from the access pass, anyone can buy one and it has nothing to do with being disabled. You buy those, but then they can get them stamped at each National Park/Site/Monument that you visit.
Last month they got three stamps. It’s a great way to catalog family vacations, and the free pass makes it budget-friendly. We also collect the National Parks and State quarters–but we collect all of them in a folder, not just the ones we have visited.
We have visited many of the National Parks. We have been to Boston, Philadelphia, National Parks out west and Washington DC many times. So if you are looking for travel tips, chances are there’s a review on this blog, or feel free to contact me. Ranger program for kids too
Please see my Sensory Friendly Travel Section for all of our National Park and other travel reviews.
This post was originally published eons ago. I update it periodically to check links.