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Visiting a National Park for vacation is one of my favorite ways to explore North America. Last year the National Park Service celebrated its 100th year and National Park attendance went through the roof. My ideal way to visit National Parks is by visiting them in a clump. One trip, the family and I visited Badlands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons all on one trip. Another trip we were able to scratch off The Grand Canyon and Petrified National Forest off of our list.
Why Visit National Parks?
Now, you may be saying to yourself “Why would I even want to pay an entrance fee to a National Park when I can just go outside on my own?”
The National Park Service was founded to preserve some of nature’s most entertaining and strange features. Do you think that Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon would be in the condition that it was in if anyone was able to claim the land or hunt the animals?
Paying to Enter the National Park Service Locations
Many of the recreation areas in the National Park Service program do not have a fee associated with them. The places that do have a price associated with them are usually per person or vehicle. Most of the places I’ve visited didn’t have a fee more than $30 per car, and this fee is typically good for the next seven days.
If you want to save money, or you are visiting multiple National Parks throughout the year, I suggest signing up for a Pass through the National Park Service.
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Interagency Annual Pass – The annual pass is $80 and is available for everyone.
Free Annual Pass for US Military – If you are a current US Military member you can receive this pass for free and visit all the parks you can squeeze in.
Annual 4th Grade Pass – From September- August every fourth grader (including homeschoolers) can visit National Parks for free.
Access Pass – Free pass for US Citizens with permanent disabilities. Applicants must provide documentation of permanent disability and residency of citizenship.
Volunteer Pass – If you volunteer 250 hours or more with federal agencies you may receive a volunteer pass to visit the different agencies.
Lifetime Access Pass
Last year, for our National Parks Trip, mom signed up for the Access Pass. Since there are no agencies close to New Orleans (The website says Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve and the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park sells them, but in 2016 they did not), we ended up taking a road trip to Mississippi and visited the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Obtaining the pass was quite easy. Mom wrote a note to her physician requesting a letter describing that she was permanently disabled. We showed up to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and made our way to this small camping office. In the office, we handed over our physician letter, proof of citizenship and after a few minutes mom received her lifetime access pass.
I love the idea behind the Access Pass because it allows those with permanent disabilities to visit the National Park Service. By having this pass, those who feel like they cannot enjoy all the amenities of the park can still visit and explore the different accessible areas of parks.
It does take some pre-planning, but every park I’ve visited with the family I’ve been able to discover unique ways to navigate the park. Many times, there are boardwalks that Ally and I can do small ‘hikes’ with Mom. On these boardwalks, most of the time we push the transport chair to see all of the different sites. Sometimes, however, we end up struggling with a steep grade and try to tackle a boardwalk that is a little more difficult than it appeared.
No matter how you travel to the different parks – look into purchasing one of these passes if you will go to more than three National Parks. All annual passes are valid one full year from the month of purchase (so purchase the pass at the beginning of the month for a full 13 months!). The pass covers the owner and three accompanying adults (16 and older).
You can purchase the passes before a major trip at an agency close to your hometown, or buy the pass at the first park you are visiting. Any passes purchased online have an additional $10 processing fee. It is not recommended to buy the passes online if you need to use them within three months.
Have you visited a National Park Recently?
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