Free Lifetime National Parks Passes for Veterans and Gold Star Families: Do You Have Yours Yet?

The American the Beautiful Military Annual and Military Lifetime passes

Do you like seeing the most beautiful parts of the U.S.A.? Are you a U.S. veteran or a Gold Star family member? Then you probably already know you can get a free lifetime entrance pass for federal parks and recreation sites nationwide.

If not, what are you waiting for?

The pass, an expansion on the annual free pass for currently serving troops and their families, in November 2022 began granting free access to about 2,000 parks and lands managed by the National Park Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Reclamation; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to an announcement on the park service website. It also gives discounted amenity fees in some locations.

While not every park or visitor area requires an entrance fee, many do. For example, Yosemite National Park in California charges a $35 entrance fee per vehicle, while Craters of the Moon National Monument charges $20. Other locations charge for entering museum or curation areas in the visitor center. For instance, the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center in the Chugach National Forest, Alaska, charges $5 per adult to access a film and exhibits.

Those fees are waived for holders of the lifetime pass, as well as those with the free active-duty America the Beautiful military pass or other passes sold or awarded by the agencies. 

The pass for veterans and Gold Star families covers the holder and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle at sites that charge per car, or the pass owners and up to three adults age 16 and over at sites that charge per person.

The lifetime pass program does not exclude veterans with so-called "bad paper" discharges. To get the pass, veterans must submit one of the following:

  • Unexpired Department of Defense Identification Card (DD Form 2, DD Form 2765, or Next Generation USID replacement)
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veteran designation on a state-issued U.S. driver's license or identification card

To receive a pass visit a National Parks or parks and land agency store or staffed fee kiosk, or order via the U.S. Geological Survey store. Passes ordered online carry a $10 processing and shipping fee. Passes received in person are free.

Gold Star family members can receive the pass by presenting a self-verification form certifying they are the next of kin to a military member killed during service overseas. The form includes a signature block and confirmation that the user is an "eligible next of kin (NOK) of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in qualifying situation."

No other identification or proof is required for Gold Star family members who want to get a lifetime pass.

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