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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? Well, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about the pass and if it is a cost effective solution for your travel plans.

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

The two most important factors to consider are which national parks and how many national parks you plan to visit within the next year.

Entry prices to US national parks vary and there can be confusing criteria at national monuments or memorials. It is important to know where you will be charged the big bucks and where you can enter for free, even without the pass.

Here’s how we will help you decide if an America the Beautiful Pass is the perfect fit for your plans:

  • What is included with the pass
  • Important 2022 updates
  • How much the pass costs
  • How much each park costs individually
  • Is the pass worth the money
  • How you can buy your pass

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

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What Does The America The Beautiful National Parks Pass Include?

So what exactly is included with the America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass? Does the pass cover all National Parks? Will I still need to pay to enter State Parks? What about National Monuments, Memorials and Native American attractions?

They are all excellent questions.

In a nutshell, here’s what the America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass does and does not include:

  • IncludedAmerica the Beautiful is a pass allowing entrance to all National Parks, National Historic Parks, National Monuments, National Seashores and National Battlefields. There are over 2000 federal recreation sites that are included with this pass.
  • Not includedThe pass does not include entry to State Parks or Native American attractions and you will be charged on an individual basis to enter each respective area. These costs quickly add up on a long road trip.

Important Note: National Monuments such as Devils Tower in Wyoming are included with America the Beautiful Pass because they have an entry fee. However, where entry to the monument is free but parking is charged, such as Mount Rushmore, this pass will not include the parking fee. It is important to understand the distinction.

US National Parks

The America the Beautiful Pass includes all 63 National Parks in the NPS network. Each of the 63 natural landscapes brings something unique to the table and those jaw-dropping vistas never get old.

Could there be more added to the 63 parks in future?

Yes, absolutely. 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.

The problem is that if every single area of outstanding natural beauty in America was designated as a National Park, there would be hundreds of national parks in the United States.

We will list all 63 US national parks, along with some of the most popular battlefields, historical parks, seashores, monuments and recreational areas further below with individual entry fees.

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

Important 2022 Updates For National Park Reservations

In response to the overcrowding issue due to increased interest from the covid pandemic, there have been multiple reservation changes, sometimes known as 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.

Below are the latest reservation requirements for 2022, but always check the NPS website for further updates.

Arches – Visitors between April 3rd and October 22nd, 2022 will require a timed entry ticket.

Carlsbad Caverns – Reservations are required to enter the Cave at Carlsbad Cavern, even if doing a self guided tour. A reservations must be made online or by calling 877-444-6777. No reservations can be made at the park.

Glacier – Portions of this park will be using a ticketed system May 27th to September 11th, 2022. One ticket per vehicle is required for Going-to-the-Sun Road including all points between the West Glacier, Camas, and St. Mary entrances. Another ticket will be required for the North Fork area via the Polebridge Entrance Station

Rocky Mountain – Between May 27th and October 10th, 2022, one of two types of entry reservations are now required to enter the park. One reservation is for Bear Lake Road Corridor and the other is for the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park, excluding the Bear Lake Road Corridor.

Zion National Park – On and after April 1st, 2022, a permit is required to hike the notorious Angel’s Landing.

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

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

An America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass costs $80. The pass is not a per person purchase, it is a per vehicle purchase, which means an entire family or couple can visit as many national parks as desired in one full year for a one off cost of just 80 dollars.

The pass must be signed on the back by at least one person, but there are two spaces for signatures and those two people do not have to be related or even traveling together. That means two families or two groups of friends can utilize the benefits of an America the Beautiful Pass.

Top tip: It is important to note that you always have to show I.D. with the park pass to gain entrance.

Important Price Information: Senior citizens (62+) can pick up an America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass for just US$ 20 (US$ 80 for a lifetime pass). Plus, the pass is completely free for Disabled or Military visitors.

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 National Parks Pass?

Entry fees to the US national parks are unofficially determined by popularity and range from free to $35 per vehicle and 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 far more popular.

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)
  • 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 parks above, you do not need to spend $80 buying a pass.

$20 US National Park Entry Fee:

Capitol Reef is currently the only national park with a 20 dollar 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 dollars 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 dollars 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 dollars 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 (US$ 15) 
  • Florida – Dry Tortugas (US$ 15)
  • Michigan – Isle Royale (US$ 7)
  • Missouri – Gateway Arch (US$ 3)
  • New Mexico – Carlsbad Caverns (US$ 15)
  • Texas – Guadalupe Mountains (US$ 10)

The six national parks listed above charge per person entry fees, which can add up to $60 for a family of four in certain 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 On The America The Beautiful National Parks Pass?

The fun doesn’t stop with National Parks! An America the Beautiful Annual National Parks pass is also known as an Interagency Pass.

This interagency pass includes entry to other federal recreation sites in participating agencies such as 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 with individual entrance prices included.

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:

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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
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

Before you get into calculating total costs we do have one top tip for you to consider.

There are 5 days each year that you can visit every single US National Park for free.

In 2022, these include:

  • January 17th: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr
  • April 16th: First day of National Park Week
  • August 4th: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 24th: 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 our without an America the Beautiful Pass.

Just remember, free = big crowds!

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

Pricing Up Cost Effectiveness

Are you adding up the costs in your head or have you hit the calculator app on your phone?!

Figure out the total costs of any national parks and other recreational sites you plan to visit over the next year.

How close are you to $80?

If you’re short of the 80 dollar number, you won’t need to buy an America the Beautiful Pass. However, if you are on or above the 80 dollar mark, we strongly recommend you buy a pass.

The best part is having the pass at hand for any ‘just in case’ or ‘spur of the moment’ visits to any national park or recreation area. 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 $80. Therefore our savings amounted to a whopping $300.

It is important to remember our $300 savings from year one doesn’t even include any National Monuments or other National Recreational Sites.

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 An America The Beautiful Pass Worth The Money For You?

Yes, an America the Beautiful National Parks Annual Pass is worth buying if you plan to visit at least four or five of the major US national parks within the next year.

However, we included our example of savings above 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.

Your America the Beautiful National Parks Pass can become one of the best bargains you will pick up this year, but you have to visit enough parks with entrance fees to make your money back and then some.

Remember, it only takes a handful of the more expensive national parks to rack up the $80 cost of the pass and it is valid for one full year from the date of purchase.

Here’s one more thing to consider: Hopefully buying an America the Beautiful Pass will spur you on to visit more US national parks than you might have initially considered!

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

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, REI or alternatively, you can pick one up in person at almost all of the 2,000+ federal recreation sites included with the pass.

Here are a list of resources for you to look into:

Personally we purchase our pass from REI each year. The price is exactly the same but REI donates 10% of the sale proceeds back into the National Park Foundation.

You can buy your America the Beautiful Pass from REI here.

Still can’t find what you need? Visit our 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 a good fit 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. 

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 :)