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America The Beautiful Pass: Is A National Parks Pass Worth It?

America The Beautiful Pass: Is A National Parks Pass Worth It?

Are you trying to decide if it is worth buying an America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass for your next trip in the US? Perfect! We are going to explain everything you need to know about the America the Beautiful Pass and help you decide if it is a cost effective solution for your upcoming travel plans.

Personally, we buy a new America the Beautiful Pass every year because we are frequent visitors to the best USA national parks and we know for certain we will get our money’s worth.

However, buying an America the Beautiful Pass is only worth it for some and not all travelers.

Here’s what we will show you in this guide:

  • How much the pass costs and how it works
  • What is included with the America the Beautiful Pass
  • How much each US national park costs individually
  • State Parks and National Recreational Sites
  • Is the America the Beautiful Pass worth it?
  • How you can buy your pass
  • Important 2022 national park reservation updates

Let’s find out if buying an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass is worth the money for you!

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Table of Contents show

How Much Does An America The Beautiful National Parks Pass Cost?

A standard America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass costs $80. This pass is the most common because it applies to anyone aged between 16-62 years old and also includes any international visitors.

However, there are exceptions to this standard pass that may apply to you. The following passes are only available to US Citizens and Permanent Residents:

  • Senior Annual – $20: Applies to anyone over the age of 62 and lasts for one year.
  • Senior Lifetime – $80: Applies to anyone over the age of 62 and lasts forever.
  • Military Annual – Free: Applies to currently serving Military or a dependent for one year.
  • Military Lifetime – Free: Applies to any Gold Star Family member or a Veteran forever.
  • Access – Free: Applies to those with medically determined permanent disabilities forever.
  • 4th Grade – Free: Applies to any US student in the 4th grade and last for one year.

The vast majority will be purchasing a standard America the Beautiful Pass for $80. Therefore, all references in this guide are related to the standard pass.

Where Are Those Morgans Badlands photograph small person surrounded by granite mounds
Kristen enjoying the unique topography in Badlands National Park, South Dakota

How Does The Pass Work?

The standard America the Beautiful annual pass is good for two individuals who can both use the pass to gain access into any included national recreational area for one vehicle and all passengers for 365 consecutive days from the day of purchase.

Let’s break that down to make it easier to understand.

Can Two People Use The America The Beautiful Pass?

Yes, two different people can use one $80 purchase of an America the Beautiful Pass. Those two individuals do not have to be related and they do not have to travel together.

Let’s say you and your sister are the two ‘pass holders’.

Both you and your sister can each take an unlimited amount of full car load of friends or family to any of the sites included on the pass for one year. But you and your sister do not have to travel together.

The pass must be signed on the back by both holders and you must remember to take ID as it will be checked upon entry to any site.

Make sure your ‘alternate’ pass holder is someone who will make the most of this pass.

Grand Canyon South Rim at sunset one of the most visited national parks with America the Beautiful Pass
Soft light at sunset over Grand Canyon South Rim

What Is Included In America The Beautiful Pass?

The America the Beautiful Pass includes unlimited entrance to National Parks, National Historic Parks, National Monuments, National Seashores and National Battlefields in the United States.

In total, there are over 2000 federal recreation sites that are included with the America the Beautiful Pass. However, there are several popular national recreational sites at which the pass is not accepted.

Here are some important questions you might have at this point:

  • Does the pass cover all National Parks?
  • Will I still need to pay to enter State Parks?
  • Which popular national recreational sites are included ot not included?

Well, let’s get right into those answers, starting with everything you need to know about how the America the Beautiful Pass works with US National Parks.

Does America The Beautiful Pass Cover All US National Parks?

Yes, an America the Beautiful Pass does include all 63 US National Parks currently included in the National Park Service network.

Will the pass include any National Parks added to the list in future?

Entry to any newly established national parks will be automatically included with the America the Beautiful Pass.

The last US national park to be established was New River Gorge in West Virginia on December 27th 2020. But we’re sure there will be more national parks in the coming years.

Next, we will list all 63 US national parks along with individual entry fees.

This will give you an idea of how much you might spend at individual national parks without an America the Beautiful Pass.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park one of the top attractions to see with America the Beautiful Pass
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park, Maine

How Much Do US National Parks Cost Without An America The Beautiful Annual Pass?

Entry fees to the US national parks are unofficially determined by popularity and range from free to $35 per vehicle. This price typically includes 7 consecutive days of visitation.

For instance Zion costs more to enter than nearby Capitol Reef in Utah because it is a far more popular park.

However, while most US National Parks charge entry fees per vehicle, there are a few exceptions where entry is charged per person. We will cover every per vehicle and per person entry fee in this next section.

How much each national park costs on an individual basis is the most important part of this article for you to consider.

Use the prices below to calculate your savings or extra spending against the $80 cost of an America the Beautiful Pass vs how much you would spend on individual parks based on your travel plans for the next 365 days.

US National Parks With Free Entry

  • Alaska – Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clarke, Wrangell-St. Elias
  • American Samoa – American Samoa
  • Arkansas – Hot Springs
  • California – Channel Islands, Redwood
  • Florida – Biscayne
  • Kentucky – Mammoth Cave (Tour Costs)
  • Minnesota – Voyageurs
  • Nevada – Great Basin
  • North Carolina/Tennessee – Great Smoky Mountains (however, parking tag costs will be implemented in 2023)
  • Ohio – Cuyahoga Valley
  • South Carolina – Congaree
  • South Dakota – Wind Cave (Tour costs are additional)
  • US Virgin Islands – Virgin Islands
  • Washington – North Cascades
  • West Virginia – New River Gorge

You can enter any of the national parks above for free with or without buying an America the Beautiful Pass.

That means if you only intend on visiting a selection of the national parks above, you do not need to spend $80 buying an annual pass.

$20 US National Park Entry Fee

Capitol Reef is currently the only national park with a $20 entrance fee per vehicle, which lasts for seven consecutive days.

$25 US National Park Entry Fee

  • Arizona – Petrified Forest, Saguaro
  • Colorado – Great Sand Dunes
  • Indiana – Indiana Dunes
  • New Mexico – White Sands

The five national parks listed above charge $25 per vehicle for entrance, which lasts for seven consecutive days.

$30 National Park Entry Fee

  • California – Death ValleyJoshua Tree, Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles
  • Colorado – Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde
  • Florida – Everglades
  • Hawaii – Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes 
  • Maine – Acadia
  • North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt
  • Oregon – Crater Lake
  • South Dakota – Badlands
  • Texas – Big Bend
  • Utah – ArchesCanyonlands
  • Virginia – Shenandoah
  • Washington – Mount Rainier, Olympic

The nineteen national parks listed above charge $30 per vehicle for seven consecutive days entrance. These parks are among the more popular tourist spots in America.

$35 National Park Entry Fee

The nine national parks listed above charge the maximum of $35 per vehicle to enter for seven consecutive days.

These stunning natural landscapes typically receive the highest visitation numbers per year within the NPS network.

National Parks With Per Person Costs

  • Alaska – Denali ($15) 
  • Florida – Dry Tortugas ($15)
  • Michigan – Isle Royale ($7)
  • Missouri – Gateway Arch ($3)
  • New Mexico – Carlsbad Caverns ($15)
  • Texas – Guadalupe Mountains ($10)

The six national parks listed above charge per person entry fees, which can add up to as much as $60 for a family of four in certain parks.

Stunning sunrise at Fire Wave in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada not included with America the Beautiful Annual Pass
Kristen taking sunrise photos at Fire Wave in Valley of Fire State Park

Is America The Beautiful Annual Pass Good For State Parks?

No, State Parks throughout the United States are not included with the America the Beautiful Pass.

Each individual US state determines its own entry fees for respective State Parks. Some charge for entry, whereas others charge for parking.

Here are some of our favorite US state parks for you to consider visiting in future:

As the US national parks continue to grow in popularity and visitation numbers, we think state parks are a good alternative for those who aren’t so fond of crowds.

Maybe in future we could have access to a state park pass, similar to the America the Beautiful Pass for national parks?

Devils Tower National Monument is one of the best places to visit outside of national parks with an america the beautiful pass striking tall tower formed by magma
Hiking around Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming

What Else Is Included With America The Beautiful Annual Pass?

The America the Beautiful Pass is also known as an Interagency Pass, which essentially means it includes entry to other federal recreation sites in participating agencies.

Those other agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers.

Below is a list containing some of the most popular recreation sites across the United States included with the America the Beautiful Annual Pass along with individual entrance prices.

If you would like to see a full list, visit the NPS website.

National Battlefields

Here are some of the most popular National Battlefields across the US included with America the Beautiful Pass:

  • Antietam ($20) – MD
  • Kennesaw Mountain ($5/vehicle) – GA
  • Little Bighorn ($25) – MT
  • Vicksburg ($20) – MS, LA
  • Wilson’s Creek ($20) – MI

National Historical Parks and Sites

Here are some of the most popular National Historic Parks and Sites across the US included with America the Beautiful Pass:

  • Adams National ($15) – MA
  • Bent’s Old Fort ($20) – CO
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Canal ($20) – MD
  • Fort Davis Site ($20) – TX
  • Harpers Ferry ($20) – WV
  • Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt ($10/person) – NY
  • Lewis & Clark ($10/vehicle) –IL
  • Sagamore Hill ($10/person) – NY
  • San Francisco Maritime ($15/person) – CA
  • San Juan ($10/person) – Puerto Rico
  • Thomas Edison ($15/person) – NJ

National Lakeshores and Seashores

Here are some of the most popular National Lakeshores and Seashores across the US included with America the Beautiful Pass:

  • Assateague Island ($25) – MD and VA
  • Cape Cod ($25) – MA
  • Cumberland Island ($10/person) – GA
  • Gulf Island ($25) – TN
  • Padre Island ($25) – TX
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes ($25) – MI

National Monuments

Here are some of the most popular National Monuments across the US included with America the Beautiful Pass:

  • Bandelier ($25) – NM
  • Cabrillo ($20) – CA
  • Craters Of The Moon ($20) – ID
  • Devils Tower ($25) – WY
  • Dinosaur ($25) – UT
  • Florissant Fossil Beds ($10/person) – CO
  • Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie ($10/person) – SC
  • Lava Beds ($25) – CA
  • Montezuma Castle ($10/person) – AZ
  • Muir Woods ($15) – CA
  • Natural Bridges ($20) – UT
  • Organ Pipe Cactus ($25) – AZ
  • Pipe Spring ($10/person) – AZ
  • Sunset Crater Volcano ($25) – AZ
  • Tuzigoot ($15/person) – AZ

National Recreation Areas

Here are some of the most popular National Recreational Areas across the US:

  • Glen Canyon ($30) – AZ
  • Lake Mead ($25) – NV
  • Whiskeytown ($15/person) – CA

Love the US National Parks? Don’t miss our popular guide featuring National Parks quotes.

Staircase Rapids in Olympic with river crashing through stunning green moss and trees in Washington
Staircase Rapids in Olympic National Park, Washington

Which Of The Most Popular US Sites Are Included With America The Beautiful Pass?

Let’s take a quick look at some examples of extremely popular tourist destinations in the United States that are both included and not included with the America the Beautiful Pass.

These are the most frequently asked about places and will give you a better idea of the type of place you can and cannot use your pass.

Can I Use America The Beautiful Pass At Alcatraz?

No, you cannot use your America the Beautiful Pass for Alcatraz Tours. There is no fee for the NPS area of Alcatraz Island, but you do have to pay for a return ferry trip to the island. You cannot use the pass to pay for the ferry.

Does America the Beautiful Pass Get You Into Zion?

Yes, Zion is a national park so the America the Beautiful Pass is accepted for unlimited entry until your pass expires (but you will need a reservation to hike the amazing Angels Landing.

Does America The Beautiful Pass Work At Mount Rushmore?

No, you cannot use an America the Beautiful Pass at Mount Rushmore because it does not charge an entry fee. However, you do have to pay for parking at Mount Rushmore.

Is America The Beautiful Pass Good At Yellowstone?

Yes, you can use your America the Beautiful Pass for unlimited entry to Yellowstone National Park until your pass expires.

Does America The Beautiful Pass Cover Statue Of Liberty?

No, you cannot use your America the Beautiful Pass to visit the Statue of Liberty in New York City. There is no entrance fee to Liberty Island, but you must pay for a ferry to Statue of Liberty and this is not included with your pass.

Mount Rainier at sunrise reflecting in lake and green grass with wildflowers foreground one of the most popular places to visit with america the beautiful national parks pass
Tipsoo Lake in Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

Will You Save Money With An America The Beautiful Pass?

After looking at the list of prices for individual entry in national parks, memorials, monuments and recreation areas, how much do you think you will spend in the next year?

How close are you to $80?

Here’s our advice:

  • If you are way short of $80, you won’t need to buy an America the Beautiful Pass.
  • If you are way over $80, we strongly recommend you buy a pass.

But if you are hovering somewhere around $80, what should you do?

Well, we think you should go ahead and buy the pass.

Having a pass will encourage you to get out and visit more of America’s most extraordinary landscapes. Once you’ve bought a pass it is good for an entire year.

So as long as you think you’ll break even at the very least, you should definitely buy a pass.

You will thank us down the line!

Yosemite Valley View at sunset with purple and blue sky over dense green forest in valley
Valley View in Yosemite National Park, California

Our Total Savings With America The Beautiful Pass In Year One

Let’s take a look at a real life example directly from our experiences using an America the Beautiful Pass when we bought and used our first pass back in 2019 during an unforgettable USA road trip.

We visited the following national parks:

  • Badlands, South Dakota (US$ 30)
  • Yellowstone, Wyoming (US$35)
  • Grand Teton, Wyoming (US$ 35)
  • Capitol Reef, Utah (US$ 20)
  • Bryce Canyon, Utah (US$ 35)
  • Zion, Utah (US$ 35)
  • Death Valley, California (US$ 30)
  • Yosemite, California (US$ 35)
  • Joshua Tree, California (US$ 30)
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona (US$ 35)
  • Canyonlands, Utah (US$ 30)
  • Arches, Utah (US$ 30)

In total we would have blown through $380 to enter those National Parks individually.

Instead, we paid just $80.

Therefore our savings amounted to a whopping $300.

It is important to remember our $300 savings from year one doesn’t include the additional National Monuments or other National Recreational Sites we also visited.

Due to covid we didn’t use our passes as much in 2020, 2021 or 2022. However, we still made sure to visit more parks than the total cost of $80 for the pass!

Grand Teton reflection in Jenny Lake Wyoming stunning photo with trees in foreground and still lake
Jenny Lake reflection in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

National Park Free Days

If you are on the fence about whether or not buying an America the Beautiful is going to benefit you financially, there is one tip we have for you to consider.

Each year there are 5 days on which you can visit every single US National Park for free.

Therefore if you are only planning to visit two or three parks next year, you can actually visit them for free if you time it right.

Here are the 2023 national park free days:

  • January 16th: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr
  • April 22nd: First day of National Park Week
  • August 4th: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23rd: National Public lands Day
  • November 11th: Veterans Day

On these days you can visit any of the national parks with as many vehicles and people as you wish for absolutely no charge, with or without an America the Beautiful Annual Pass.

Just remember, free = big crowds!

Bison walking on road in Yellowstone National Park one of the top things to see with an america the beautiful pass
Bison jam in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Is America The Beautiful Pass Worth It?

Yes, an America the Beautiful Pass is definitely worth buying! As long as you visit enough parks and recreational sites in 365 days which add up to more than $80 in entrance fees, this annual pass will be one of the best deals you pick up each year.

We included our example of savings earlier on purpose to demonstrate how much can be saved on a long road trip (here’s our US road trip packing essentials list).

But not everyone is taking a 3 month road trip across the western United States.

An America the Beautiful Pass will not save you money if you only visit one or two national parks. If you don’t think you will get round to visiting the parks, don’t buy a pass.

How Do You Buy An America The Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass?

You can purchase your America the Beautiful Pass directly from the US National Park service or you can pick one up in person at almost all of the 2,000+ federal recreation sites included with the pass.

Here are the three ways you can buy an America the Beautiful Pass:

  1. Purchase online at the official National Park store
  2. Call USGS (United State Geological Survey) on 1-888-275-8747 to purchase pass
  3. Purchase a pass at most National Park entrance kiosks

There are no alternative means of purchasing this pass.

Personally, we always purchase our America the Beautiful Pass online. Shipping takes just a few days and it is easier to arrive at your fist national park with pass in hand ready to explore!

Heading to several National Parks? You might like a National Parks Passport to document your amazing adventures.

Delicate Arch at sunset stunning landscape with soft light in utah
Delicate Arch at sunset in Arches National Park, Utah

Important 2023 Updates For National Park Reservations

In response to the overcrowding issue due to increased interest, there have been multiple reservation changes (or pilot permit programs) for US National Parks over the past few years.

These reservation programs are ongoing and can change very quickly. We recommend you keep a close eye on the park you plan to visit and always check for new updates prior to your visit.

All National Park reservations can be made online at Recreation.gov or by calling the reservation line at 877-444-6777. No reservations can be made at a park entrance.

Popular Park Reservation Requirements For 2023

Acadia – Vehicle reservations for Cadillac Summit Road are required for June 23rd through Oct 22nd. Reservations are sold for $6 as a sunrise or daytime ticket.

Arches – Visitors between April 1st to October 31st will require a timed entry ticket when entering from 7:00am – 4:00pm.

Carlsbad Caverns – Reservations are required to enter the Cave at Carlsbad Cavern even if opting for a self guided tour.

Glacier Vehicle reservation is required to access 4 popular sections of the park on various days beginning May 26th through September 10th from 6:00am – 3:00pm.

  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (West entrance): May 26th – Sept 10th (3 day)
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (St. Mary entrance): July 1th – Sept 10th (3 day)
  • North Fork Area: May 26 – Sept 10th (1 day)
  • Many Glacier + Two Medicine: July 1 -Sept 10th (1 day)

Rocky Mountain – A two timed entry permit reservations are required for May 26th through October 22nd. One permit is for Bear Lake Road Corridor from 5:00am to 6:00pm. The second permit is for the ‘rest of the park’ excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor from 9:00am to 2:00pm.

Yosemite – You do not need an advanced reservation to visit Yosemite National Park in 2023. The only exception is weekends in February for those who want to see Horsetail Fall ‘on fire’.

Zion National Park – Advanced reservations for the Zion Canyon shuttle bus remain discontinued (since May 1st 2021). However, a permit is required to hike past Scout Lookout to Angels Landing any time of the year with seasonal and day-before lottery options.

Angels Landing hike in Zion National Park

America The Beautiful Pass FAQ’s

Let’s finish by taking a quick look at some of the most asked questions about the America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass.

How Long Are America The Beautiful Passes Good For?

Any standard annual version of the America the Beautiful Pass is good for 12 months from the date of purchase. However, there are lifetime passes available for anyone 62+ years old and military Gold Star Families and Veterans.

What Does America The Beautiful Pass Cover In Arizona?

Certain popular hiking trailhead parking lots in Sedona, Grand Canyon National Park, Saguaro National Park, Petrified Forest National Park, Organ Pipe National Monument, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Walnut Canyon National Monument and many more recreational sites are all covered by the America the Beautiful Pass in Arizona.

Our Popular US National Park Guides
Our Popular US Road Trip Guides

Still can’t find what you need? Visit our US National Parks page for more of our popular posts.


We hope this guide helped you decide if an America the Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass is worth it for your upcoming travel plans!

Please let us know if you have any questions about the pass or any of the US National Parks you intend to visit in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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Graham Bedford

Thursday 28th of May 2020

These national parks are amazing, they are on my bucket list now.

Mark & Kristen Morgan

Thursday 28th of May 2020

Hi Graham! Wait until you see them in person :)