U.S. National Parks Senior Pass Price to Rise Soon–a Lot!

The U.S. National Parks Senior Pass has been one of the best bargains on the planet for 25 years. That’s about to change. But there’s still time to get yours—cheap! Find out how to do it and why you should.

Sunrise over Yosemite. See it for free with a National Parks Senior Pass

The sun rises at Yosemite National Park in California. You can just see the famous “Half Done” in the distance. See this park for free with a National Parks Senior Pass. (And keep reading for more breathtaking National Park photos.)


Important Update: The US National Park Service has adjusted the date after which the price of the Senior Pass will rise. The cut-off date is now August 28th.
The following is copied directly from the US National Parks website. It is referrinng to Senior Passes ordered online (emphasis mine).

We are experiencing a major increase in Senior pass sales.
Until the current backlog of Senior Pass orders are shipped, your order confirmation will be honored for use at agency sites.
If you need your pass in less than three months, consider purchasing your pass at the first site you visit…. Please Note that USGS field offices DO NOT issue passes.
Online and Mail in Senior pass applications are currently being processed within twelve weeks
All eligible Senior pass orders postmarked by the USGS before August 28 will be processed at the $10 price. Lifetime Senior pass orders postmarked after August 28 will be processed at the $80 price. Additional processing fees of $10 apply
.

Original article continues below about what this all means for you.


But Do They Really Have to Call us “Seniors”??

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I hate the word “senior,” unless it’s referring to an upperclassman in high school or college. When I think of “senior citizens,” I think of my mother at the end of her life (she lived to be 97). Even she then acknowledged that she was, uh, “old.” The word makes me think of free lunches at the “Senior Center” and the other women who shared my mom’s table at her Senior Independent Living Home.

Not that there is anything wrong with any of those places, mind you. I think they’re a great option for many people who are getting up into the high digits. But for those of us Nomad Women who feel like we are still in the prime of our lives at 65 or 75, the term can be, well, jarring. We are women who travel the globe, who seek out adventures and deep travel experiences. We live large and love it. We don’t think of ourselves as “senior” anythings.

On the other hand, I have always been more than willing to accept the financial benefits occasionally offered by my age. Yes, ladies (and gents), the “Senior Discount” is your friend. Which bring us to the topic of this post.

For mature lovers of “America’s Best Idea”—the U.S. National Parks system—there’s good news… and a bit not so good.

The U.S. National Parks Senior Pass–Bargain of a Lifetime

The good news? If you’re a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident age 62 or older, you can still visit every National Park in the country for a one-time fee with a National Parks Senior Pass. For the rest of your life. That is not going to change.

The U.S. National Parks Senior Pass, a handy card that will fit in your pocket but will take you to magical places.

The U.S. National Parks Senior Pass, a handy card that will fit in your pocket but will take you to magical places.

Currently, the National Parks Senior Pass, costs just $10 for lifetime access. It will continue to be available at that price until October 1, 2017. This pass has been one of the greatest bargains in the country for older Americans for the last quarter of a century.

The bad news? That bargain price is about to change. It you want to jump on this bargain, you need to do it soon.

Uh-Oh, the Price of the National Parks Senior Pass is About to Skyrocket

As of October 1, the price of the National Parks Senior Pass will go up. A lot. In fact, there will be an 8-fold increase. That’s right, an 800% rise in the price. The now $10 price for the lifetime pass will go to $80.

That price will still be a bargain, considering that many of the larger and most impressive parks charge up to $30 in entrance fees. So visiting 3 of these parks with the pass means it will have paid for itself and then some. And your savings are locked in until the day you die. Also, you’ll be able to opt to pay $20 for a one year Senior Pass. The next year, you can do the same. Once you’ve purchased four $20 annual Senior Passes, you can convert them to an $80 lifetime pass.

But here’s the age-old question. Why pay more? If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who is now or will be 62 before October 1, 2017, you can still get that coveted pass for ten bucks—the bargain of a lifetime.

Get Your National Parks Senior Pass NOW

The steep hike in the pass cost was a little-discussed provision of the National Parks Centennial Act, which received bipartisan support in the U.S. House and unanimous consent in the Senate when it was passed in December, 2016. The law was intended to help fund the nearly $12 billion in repairs currently needed to park infrastructure, including deteriorating buildings and unmaintained trails. It will also help fund education programs for young people to learn more about the parks and their unparalleled place in our national history and culture.

Since the price hike goes into effect in October, 2017, there is still plenty of time to get your pass at the current $10 price. And boy, is it worth it!

The Many Benefits of a National Parks Senior Pass

Here’s a look at what that ten bucks gets you:

— Free admission to more than 2000 U.S. federal recreation sites nationwide, including National Parks, National Monuments, National Seashores, National Recreation Areas, National Wildlife Refuges and many National Forest lands.
— Free admission for anyone traveling with a pass holder in a non-commercial vehicle when there is a per-vehicle fee.
— Free admission for up to three accompanying adults, no matter their age, when the admission fee is per person (children under 16 are always admitted free).
— Discounts on many park related fees, including some camping spots. It also gives you discounts of up to 50% on many federal use fees charged for swimming, boat launching, parking, and tours.
— It’s good for the rest of your life—one fee forever.

How to Buy a National Parks Senior Pass

The best way to get your Senior Pass is in person at any national park, national forest, or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office. You’ll be asked to show ID proving your age. Ten dollars later, you’re out the door with your lifetime pass in hand. (Hint: Don’t lose it. It is not replaceable.)

If there is no park or other pass locale near you and you’re not planning to visit one before October 1, 2017, you can buy the the Senior Pass online. It will cost you an extra $10 in processing fees, effectively doubling the price to $20, but it’s still a great bargain. This is a “Senior Perk” you don’t want to miss.

To order your National Parks Senior Pass online, visit the National Parks store here.

Roadtrip Anyone?

So go get out there, Nomad Women (and family and friends). Go “See the USA”—whether in your Chevrolet, Honda, Mercedes or even a Smart Car! Or load up the RV and head on out. The U.S. National Parks have rightly been called “America’s Best Idea.” You need to go experience them. And with the U.S. National Parks Senior Pass, you can go from north to Alaska, to see Denali, or down to the Dry Tortugas off the Florida Keys. You can see the Hawai’i Volcanoes and visit Acadia National Park in Maine. And all those 2000 beautiful, natural, historic places in between.

And once you’ve got that precious pass, you can do it all for free.

But why would you want to travel to all the National Parks in the US? How about breathtaking beauty? History? Getting in touch with Mother Nature? Or just to find some pure peace and quiet? Read this post about finding soitude in America’s National Parks.

A Small Taste of What You Can See….

The deep blue water of Crater Lake, in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.

Crater Lake in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon is loved for its round shape–it was created by a collapsed volcano–and its pristine, deep-blue water, caused by its extreme depth.

The red sandstone hoo-doos of Bryce Canyon, in Utah, an outdoor experience like no other.

The red-orange sandstone “hoo-doos” of Bryce Canyon National Park are breathtaking at any season.

A volcano erupts at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on The Big Island.

Feel the heat at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Just be careful!

Mesa Verde National Park. Some of the more than 600 preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people of Colorado... who began living here more than 1400 years ago.

At Mesa Verde National Park in Southwestern Colorado, you can visit some of the more than 600 cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. They lived here for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300.

The 19th-century Fort Jefferson is part of the Dry Tortugas National Park, found in the Gulf of Mexico west of Key West, Florida.

The 19th-century Fort Jefferson is part of the Dry Tortugas National Park, found in the Gulf of Mexico west of Key West, Florida.

Snowy egrets are commonly found in Everglades National Park. They are easily spotted by their glowing white color.

Snowy egrets are common in The Everglades. They became extremely endangered in the 19th century, when their filmy feathers became very fashionable for ladies hats. Luckily, we don’t wear hats much anymore.

 

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39 replies
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      You are so welcome, Debbra. I’m glad you found it helpful. I first heard about this in an article form AARP not long ago. I knew immediately that this was information I had to share with my readers. Enjoy the parks!

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Thanks for passing it on, Carole. Yes, the pass is good for a lot of federal properties beyond just the National Parks. It also covers, National Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, Historical Monuments, Recreational Areas, and most National Forests. In fact, there are over 2000 properties that the pass covers!

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      I don’t know either if there are any kind of special passes for seniors or other groups for the Canadian parks–beyond this year’s anniversary. And yes, $10 is a great deal! That’s why I didn’t want eligible people to miss out on it.

      Reply
  1. Rossana
    Rossana says:

    Wow, that is a huge jump in price. It is certainly a great benefit to get the life time pass if you are over 62, but better to get sooner than later. Visiting the National Parks can be costly… we are taking advantage of the free family pass offered here in Canada for the 150th celebration. Can’t wait to see how many we can hit! .

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      It’s great that you have that option in Canada this year. I’ve heard a lot of people are getting out and seeing their Canadian parks. I would love to get up there to do the same.

      Reply
  2. cindy
    cindy says:

    I actually think a price increase was long over-due. “Seniors” make up a huge component of park users and there is no reason why they/we should have what is essentially free access. And at $80 it’s still a great deal – I think we used my husband’s pass three or four times just in the last month while traveling in AZ. I feel a little guilty every time we use it, because we could easily afford to pay the full price while it is a challenge for so many young families. And, right now many of the parks are just swamped with visitors, but don’t have the funds to appropriately maintain and supervise these precious resources.

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      You have a point, Cindy. It has been an incredible bargain for many years, and yes, older people do make up a significant portion of park visitors. But you do seem to argue that it is more of a challenge for young families. I’m sure it is for many, but it is also a huge challenge for older people who are trying to live on their Social Security checks. I think one reason they so often choose to visit the parks instead of going to a resort somewhere is because it is the vacation they can afford–and all because of that pass. I agree that $80 will still be a great deal, especially since you can essentially pay for it in four annual payments of $20 each. But I want people to know that they can do it for $10 if they are eligible and can act right now.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Sorry to be a tease, Janice. I wish you could get this too. If you’re traveling in a lot of US National Parks in one year, the regular annual pass, though far more expensive, is still a good deal.

      Reply
  3. Vicki Louise
    Vicki Louise says:

    I don’t want to wish my life away – but what a great deal this would be if I was a senior! Those who are eligible really should jump on this and use the pass to explore more of the incredible National Parks in the USA!

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Oh no, Vicki, you definitely don’t want to wish away any of your youth! But for those of us who are on the other side of that, yes, it’s a great deal. Please pass on the info to any “oldies” in your circle.

      Reply
  4. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    God, thank sucks. My parents love senior discounts and save a bundle on them. Bjt I have been woefully neglectful of my national park travel and your photos inspire me to do better. Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Yes, it is a huge rise, though it will still be a bargain for people who visit more than a few parks. I hope your parents have got theirs. And yes, again… do get our there and see the Parks. They are such a phenomenal asset for the American people.

      Reply
  5. Laura Lynch
    Laura Lynch says:

    It is a huge increase, but it’s also still a good deal, especially for those who are making a trip out of visiting all of the parks, like a lot of that age set do. The National Parks are so amazing and we need to work hard to keep them that way. I guess the price increase will help tremendously with that.

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      You’re right, Laura. Even the new price will be a good deal… less than the entrance fee to three of the big parks, and still good for life. But for anyone who qualifies NOW, it’s even better to get it before October.

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      I don’t blame you, Kavey, either for wanting it or for NOT wanting to qualify for it yet. But yes, for those who do, it’ss an amazing deal.

      Reply
  6. Sandy N Vyjay
    Sandy N Vyjay says:

    The National Parks authority of the US has been doing yeoman service to the Earth and its envi.ronment by immaculately maintaining the lovely parks. It is sad that the price of the “Senior” pass is being hiked drastically, probably this is the time to rush to get them before the price increase

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Absolutely, Sandy, and it is easy to see that the price hike in necessary–although the percentage seems a bit radical. Indeed, for those who qualify, this is THE time to make sure y ou’ve got your pass. It’s good for a lifetime!

      Reply
  7. Gareth
    Gareth says:

    I have to agree with you on both fronts: This really is an absolutely incredible bargain and the term “senior” does sound a little insulting! But really, I think people can lie with that in exchange for a glimpse of one of these incredible sites of which the Mesa Verde National Park looks particularly humbling. Still, with just a few months before the price goes up, that’s a lot of parks to get through!

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Well, Gareth, you don’t have to get through all the parks BEFORE the price rise. You just have to get the card before then. Once you have the Senior Pass, whatever you pay for it, it is good for the rest of your life. It works for you and up to three adults with you, no matter their age. So if you’re eligible, get the pass NOW for $10. Then, as long as you don’t ever lose it (it is not replaceable), you’ll never pay another dime to enter a National Park as long as you live.

      Reply
  8. UK Family Visas
    UK Family Visas says:

    Wow, this is a useful article. Seniors still have time to visit and enjoy the view of this place but your photos were all stunning, I really like places like this and of course, Canyon National Park who wouldn’t want to see a view like that?

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Yes, there is still time to get the US National Parks Senior Pass at the $10 price until October 1. But you don’t have to visit them all before that date. Once you’ve got the pass, it’s good for the rest of your life. Quite a deal!

      Reply
  9. Siddhartha Joshi
    Siddhartha Joshi says:

    $10 for lifetime access is absolutely insane…I think everyone eligible should just go for it, there can be no better deal than this!

    I am with you on the term ‘senior’ and I feel it really brackets people. Not sure what a replacement word could be though…

    Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sid. I am in the US myself right now for a short trip. This week, I got my $10 pass. I’m now good to go for the rest of my life!

      Reply
    • Donna
      Donna says:

      I found it on a National Park website. I know earlier reports just said “some time in 2017” but my undertnading is that the NPS has now set a firm date.

      Reply
      • Zach Teel
        Zach Teel says:

        Could you please provide the link? To my knowledge there is no effective date for the price increase. There have been a wide variety of “so-called” confirmed dates, all of which are false.

        Reply
        • Donna
          Donna says:

          Of course, Zach. The link where I got the information is

          The relevant line in that article says this: “Thomas Crosson, the chief spokesman for the National Park Service, said Monday that the higher fee won’t take effect until October 1, the start of Fiscal 2018 for the federal government.”

          If you discover that this is false, please let me know, with a link. I’d appreciate it.

          Reply

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