A lifetime pass to all the National Parks costs seniors just $10, but not for long

Since 1994, the National Park Service has offered seniors (those 62 and older) lifetime park passes for just $10, but that’s about to change.

Yellowstone
Photo courtesy of Scott Bufkin/Adobe stock

With retirement comes the opportunity to travel more. Make visiting all (or at least a lot) of the U.S. National Parks a bucket list item, but before you embark on that adventure, you will want to buy a lifetime senior access pass—and soon.

Since 1994, the National Park Service has offered seniors (those 62 and older) lifetime park passes for just $10, but that’s about to change. Last year, just before President Obama left office and during the NPS’ centennial anniversary, Congress passed the National Park Service Centennial Act, which included price hikes to increase park funding and improve infrastructure. As a result, the price of a lifetime senior pass is about to become eight times more expensive, costing seniors $80. But seniors still have time to get the $10 passes.

There isn’t a firm date yet as to when the price change will take effect, but it’s expected before the end of the year. The National Park Service’s website says it does not “expect changes to the senior pass price or program within the next few months.”

“We don’t want anyone to feel blindsided and say, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us about this?'” NPS spokesperson Kathy Kupper told the American Association of Retired Persons. “[The higher fee] is still a great deal.”

While that might be true, the $10 lifetime pass is, of course, a particularly exceptional bargain. Annual senior passes are $20, and some major parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite charge $30 for a seven-day pass. Passes grant visitors entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including the 137 parks that charge admission. Passes also cover standard amenity and day use fees. The lifetime pass also offers additional perks like 50 percent off select parks’ amenities that typically come with an associated fee, including camping, swimming and boat launches. And the pass doesn’t just cover the owner; it grants access to the owner and everyone in his or her (noncommercial) car.

Seniors can still get the $10 lifetime pass by printing, filling out and mailing the application provided here. There is an additional $10 processing fee, however, it can be bypassed by returning the application in person at any federal recreation site.

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