Two older hikers enjoy the trails of a national park.

Lifetime Passes to National Parks

There are many great national parks across the United States, but paying admission and parking for several of them a year can add up to a hefty sum. Luckily, the National Parks Service aims to be accommodating in inviting visitors to its parks. This is why they have created two separate lifetime passes: the Interagency Senior Pass and the Interagency Access Pass. With one of these, visitors are offered many perks, such as free admission, discounted access to special events, and free onsite parking. These passes encourage older visitors and those with disabilities to enjoy the beauty of nature. Let’s take a closer look at these opportunities.

Interagency Senior Pass

The National Parks Service is particularly inviting to boomer travelers. For a one-time processing fee of $10, anyone over the age of 62 who is a permanent resident of the United States can receive an Interagency Senior Pass. With this pass, card holders will be allowed unlimited admission to any sites run by the Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, USACE, or Bureau of Reclamation. The Interagency Senior Pass also provides free parking and allows the holder to bring up to three personal guests.

Many of the more than 2,000 sites run by the National Park Service offer additional tours and special events. These services, however, are not covered by the pass. Until 2007, this pass was referred to as the Golden Age Passport. Although the pass has been reimagined, the original card is still valid for those who purchased it before the change. The Interagency Senior Pass is to be presented on the vehicle driven into the participating park, either by a tag hanging from the rearview mirror or as a windshield decal. For the frequent traveler who meets the age and residency requirements, there really is no better deal. Even if you only use it a few times, it will more than pay for itself.

Zion National Park

Interagency Access Pass

This pass offers many of the same benefits as the Interagency Senior Pass; however, this pass is only available to those with disabilities. The Interagency Access Pass is available at absolutely no cost, provided that the applicants have the proper documentation of permanent disability that limits their ability to perform daily tasks. To prove a medical condition, applicants must submit a copy of a Notice of Award, Summary of Benefits, or Award Letter from the Veteran's Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Security Income.

A handicap placard for a car is not sufficient enough to qualify. Just like the Senior Pass, the Access Pass grants admission to any of the sites run by the six federal agencies listed above. The Access Pass likewise provides free parking and allows the holder to bring up to three personal guests. Once again, this pass does not cover any special events or guided tours offered at the facility. After someone has been granted an Interagency Access Pass, it has a lifetime validation regardless of any changes in medical standing.

Last Updated: September 06, 2016