National Park Service wooden plaque
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Reminder: Last Hours Before Cost of National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass Increases by 700 Percent

As I first reported in this article last month, citizens and permanent residents of the United States who are 62 years of age or older have been able to purchase a lifetime Senior Pass for ten dollars since 1994 — but that will change as of tomorrow, Monday, August 28, 2017 when the cost of a lifetime Senior Pass increases to $80.00.

Reminder: Last Hours Before Cost of National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass Increases by 700 Percent

Additionally — for those people who are either living on a fixed budget or do not want to purchase a lifetime Senior Pass — a new annual Senior Pass will become available for the cost of $20.00. The good news is that if you change your mind after four consecutive years of purchasing the annual Senior Pass, you can trade in the four annual Senior Passes for a lifetime Senior Pass, which is like paying for the lifetime Senior Pass on a payment plan of four years free of interest.

The price of the America the Beautiful — The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass is increasing as result of the Centennial Legislation P.L. 114-289, which was passed by the House of Representatives of the United States on Friday, December 16, 2016. The legislation states that the cost of the lifetime Senior Pass be equal to the cost of the annual America the Beautiful — The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which is currently $80.00.

The Senior Pass provides entrance or access to its owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle at recreation sites across the country which are operated by the National Park Service of the United States. It may provide a discount of 50 percent on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services — such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services — but it generally does not cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.

Both the annual and lifetime Senior Passes provide access to greater than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six agencies of the federal government of the United States — including:

  • National Park Service
  • United States Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • United States Forest Service
  • United States Army Corps of Engineers

Where Do The Funds Go?

The funds from all Senior Passes purchased in a national park will go to a National Park Foundation Endowment and a National Park Centennial Challenge Fund — both of which are authorized by the Centennial Legislation.

The first $10 million collected by the National Park Service in each fiscal year from Senior Pass sales will be deposited in the Second Century Endowment managed by the National Park Foundation.  The foundation is the congressionally authorized philanthropic partner, or official charity, of the National Park Service. Funds within the Second Century Endowment will be expended on projects and activities approved by the Secretary of Interior to further the mission and purpose of the National Parks Service.

All revenues collected from sales by the National Park Service of National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes, including the Senior Pass, that are in excess of $10 million will be deposited in the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund. The funds will be used for projects and programs approved by the Secretary of the Interior to the mission of the National Park Service and to enhance the visitor experience in National Park System units. Projects and programs will require at least a one-to-one match by non-federal donations.

If you purchase a Senior Pass from one of the other five federal agencies, between 80 percent to 100 percent of funds from Senior Passes will be retained by the site where they are sold and spent on visitor-related projects and programs.

Other Information Pertaining to Senior Passes

The passes cover entrance and standard amenity — or day use — recreation fees and provide discounts on some expanded amenity recreation fees.

Other benefits from a Senior Pass include that travelling companions can also enter for free. The Senior Passes admit pass owners and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas and pass owner plus three adults — not to exceed four adults — where per-person fees are charged. Children younger than 16 years of age are always admitted free of charge. At many sites, the Senior Passes provides a discount on expanded amenity fees — such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours — only to the owner of the Senior Pass.

Photographic identification may be required to verify ownership. Senior Passes cannot be:

  • Refunded
  • Transferred
  • Replaced if lost or stolen


Even at $80.00, the Senior Pass is still a good deal — but unfortunately, if you are not yet 62 years of age by Monday, August 28, 2017, you will not be able to take advantage of the current price of ten dollars.

If you already have a Senior Pass, nothing changes, as it is valid for the remainder of your life.

To avoid paying an additional processing fee of ten dollars, purchase your Senior Pass at a recreation site managed by one of the aforementioned six federal agencies instead of purchasing it via this official Internet web site.

Keep in mind that access to the majority of National Park Service sites remains free, as only 118 of 417 National Park Service sites have an entrance fee; so unless you plan on visiting many of those 118 sites, you probably do not need a lifetime Senior Pass anyway.

Also, do not forget that for the remainder of 2017, you can visit a national park in Canada free of charge.

One other note: you can get a free pass to all national parks good for one year if you become a volunteer and provide a minimum of 250 hours of cumulative service at six different federal agencies. You will receive the same discounts and national park benefits as the annual pass, which costs $80.00 per year.

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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