Free Admission to National Parks for Military Members and Their Families

Military members and their families and their dependents are now eligible to receive a free annual pass to U.S. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands. Beginning May 19, 2012, all active duty military members and their families can receive the free annual pass with proper identification – a Common Access Card (CAC) for the military member and DD Form 1173 for dependents (see more info about getting a replacement military ID card if you need a new one).

How to get a free annual pass: You must apply for the free pass in person at the National Park or Federal Recreation Land with your ID in hand.

Free US National Park Admission for military members

Get out and see America!

What is covered with the free pass? Passes cover entrance to Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service sites that charge Entrance Fees, and Standard Amenity Fees at Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites.

The pass covers admission for the annual pass owner and the passengers in their vehicle (up to 3 adults per vehicle, age 16 and over; no charge for children under age 16).

Are free passes available for veterans? Unfortunately, no. This offer is good for active duty servicemembers and their dependents. There may be discounts for veterans depending on location, and there are also discounts available to seniors: those age 62 and over can apply for a Senior Pass.

Veterans with a permanent disability can apply for an Access Pass, which is a free lifetime pass which can be obtained in person from a participating Federal recreation site or office or by mail.

What else do I need to know? Passes are good for one year after they are issued (to the end of the month in which they were issued). The pass has two signature lines, and is only god once it is signed. It must be signed by the service member, and may also be signed by a dependent. The pass is non-transferrable, so it is only good for the person it is issued to (or the other dependent who signed the pass). Dependents can use the pass without the service member present as long as they have signed the document.

The pass only allows entrance to the passengers in one non-commercial vehicle (age limits given above). There are exceptions for motorcycles and bicycles- the pass may cover admission for two people on separate motorcycles if both members signed the card, otherwise, only the person who signed the card will receive  free admission. The pass will cover up to 4 people on bicycles.

The pass does not cover extended amenities such as camping, boat launching, parking, special tours, special permits or ferries.

Get out and see America! This is a great way for service members and their families to visit some of America’s natural wonders without worrying about breaking the bank to do so (some annual passes cost upwards of $80 per year). ake advantage of this opportunity to visit your National Parks for free if you are an active duty member of the military or dependent.

More info: National Parks Free Military Pass.

Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ.

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Date published: May 30, 2012.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Rob Wells says

    I live in Nevada and would like to see all states welcome for free all Vets and Serviceman. How and who can we contact for this to happen. Vets deserve to be able to get in Free at State Parks All The Time and not just on certain days.

    • says

      Rob, I think that would be a great way to honor veterans. National Parks are governed by the National Parks Administration, so they would be the group to contact. State parks would be governed be each individual state, so each state park commission would need to be lobbied independently.

  2. Marvin L. Nichols says

    I have read about the free passes for active duty military and their families. That is so nice to have. How about the military retirees who have sacrificed as much or even more? This is bull if they are omitted. I am a retired vet at age 72 with 30% disability from asbestos and I see nothing here that helps me after all the sacrifice I have made. Of course the Government don’t really care about us anymore.

    • Clay Jackson says

      I am right there with Marvin. I am 57 with 26 years between Navy, Air Force and Army. I retired in 1999 and all I see and hear is support for veterans who are post 911. It is as though service before 911 wasn’t really service and didn’t count. I work part time since my previous employer layed off the only 2 veterans in the store I worked at. I applied for health care at my local VA hospital in Roanoke VA and was declined because they said I earned too much.

  3. Richard H. Jones says

    I have served 25 years and am retired. This is a nice thing to do for those on active duty, but as Mr. Nichols stated, its like Veit Nam all over again, in that the Government tents to fotget those that have served.

  4. DLee says

    When I was serving I did not have time to enjoy the parks. Now that I’m retired and have the time I have to pay. Seems like situation normal, all “f”ed up.

  5. Robert Wells says

    I guess I started this and I went to a National Park here in Nevada and got a Lifetime Pass for All NATIONAL PARKS FOR FREE. Having a handicapped pass I think helped me with that but just go to a park and show any military ID like I did and received my pass.

    State Parks should do this too and they don’t and thats Bull

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