Is the ‘America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass‘ worth buying? This is the question we asked ourselves before setting off on an epic 3 month US road trip – and you are asking yourself now!
America’s diverse National Parks were top of our wishlist. A little investigating led us quickly to the conclusion that this pass would definitely be worth the money for our trip.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a shoe in for you.
Not everyone is going on a 3 month road trip. In addition, there are differing entry prices and confusing criteria. It is important to know where you will be charged the big bucks and where you can enter for free, even without the pass.
We often discussed if the America the Beautiful pass would have saved us money had we only been a shorter road trip.
By the end of this article, you will know if the pass is worth the money for you.
Let’s dig in and find out!
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What Does The America The Beautiful Pass Include?
So what exactly is included with the pass? Does this cover all National Parks? Will I still need to pay to enter State Parks? What about National Monuments and Native American attractions?
They are all excellent questions.
The US is gigantic and National Parks are on a completely different level. National Parks in most other countries don’t even come close to the scale and jaw-dropping-moments of US parks.
There are currently 62 National Parks in the US park system.
Could there be more?
Heck, yes! However, not every single area of outstanding natural beauty can be designated as a National Park. Otherwise, there would be hundreds in America!
- America the Beautiful is a pass allowing entrance to all National Parks, National Monuments and Battlefields. There are over 2000 federal recreation sites that are included with the pass.
- The pass does not cover State Parks or Native American attractions and you will be charged on an individual basis to enter. These costs quickly add up on a long road trip.
How Much Does The America The Beautiful National Parks Pass Cost?
An America the Beautiful pass is not a per person purchase, it is a per vehicle purchase. That means if you are traveling as a couple or even as a family of 4, you only need to buy 1 pass.
Most parks charge per vehicle but there are a few exceptions where entry is charged per person. There are 2 spaces for signatures on the back of the card but the 2 people do not have to be related or traveling together.
It is important to note that you always have to show I.D. with the park pass to gain entrance.
So, the grand total for access to some of the most incredible National Parks in the whole world for a full year and up to 4 people …. drum role … is a (quite frankly) ridiculous…
No we didn’t mistype, it’s 80 dollars. If that number seems even a little steep to you, just wait until you see how much each park costs to enter individually below.
Now before we get any more over excited by what we consider to be one of the bargains of the century, it’s important to consider exactly which parks you want to visit to determine if you will save money.
At the end of the day, we all want the best value for money.
Let’s dig into the figures!
How Much Do US National Parks Cost Without a Pass?
How much each park costs on an individual basis is the most important part of this article for you to calculate savings or extra spending against the US$ 80.
Below, you will find current entry prices into each of the US National Parks. Notice there a small number of parks charging per person as opposed to per vehicle.
Spoiler – visiting Utah? You’ll be buying the pass!
|Free To Enter||Alaska – Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clarke, Wrangell-St. Elias; American Samoa – American Samoa; Arkansas – Hot Springs; California – Channel Islands, Redwood; Florida – Biscayne; Kentucky – Mammoth Cave (Tour Costs); Minnesota – Voyageurs; Nevada – Great Basin; North Carolina/Tennessee – Great Smoky Mountains; Ohio – Cuyahoga Valley; South Carolina – Congaree; South Dakota – Wind Cave; US Virgin Islands – Virgin Islands; Washington – North Cascades|
|US$ 6||Indiana – Indiana Dunes|
|US$ 20||Arizona – Petrified Forest, Saguaro; Colorado – Black Canyon of the Gunnison; Utah – Capitol Reef|
|US$ 25||Colorado – Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Rocky Mountain; Hawaii – Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes; New Mexico – White Sands; Oregon – Crater Lake; South Dakota – Badlands|
|US$ 30||California – Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles; Florida – Everglades; Maine – Acadia; North Dakota – Theodore Roosevelt; Texas – Big Bend; Utah – Arches, Canyonlands; Virginia – Shenandoah; Washington – Mount Rainier, Olympic|
|US$ 35||Arizona – Grand Canyon; California – Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yosemite; Montana – Glacier; Utah – Bryce Canyon, Zion; Wyoming – Grand Teton, Yellowstone|
|Per Person Costs||Alaska – Denali (US$ 10); Florida – Dry Tortugas (US$ 15); Michigan – Isle Royale (US$ 7); Missouri – Gateway Arch (US$ 3); New Mexico – Carlsbad Caverns (US$ 15); Texas – Guadalupe Mountains (US$ 5)|
Get Your Calculator Out!
Are you adding up the costs in your head?!
Which parks are on your road trip agenda? Use the table above to calculate projected expense, get a total and see how close to 80 you are!
Remember, the pass is valid for 1 year. Consider the chances of being able to visit more parks within the next 365 days. It could save you even more money.
Our Total Savings With America The Beautiful Pass
We visited the following parks on our US Road Trip:
Badlands (US$ 20), Yellowstone (US$ 35), Grand Tetons (US$ 35), Capitol Reef (US$ 20), Bryce Canyon (US$ 35), Zion (US$ 35), Death Valley (US$ 30), Yosemite (US$ 35), Joshua Tree (US$ 30), Grand Canyon (US$ 35), Canyonlands (US$ 30) and Arches (US$ 30).
In total we would have blown through US$ 370 to enter those National Parks. Instead, we paid US$ 80.
So, Is It Worth The Money?
Abso-damn-lutely! As long as you plan to visit at least four or five of the bigger parks in the next year, your America the Beautiful National Parks Pass will be excellent value for money!
Personally, we believe this annual pass is a steal. Of course it completely depends on which US states and National Parks you intend to visit, but it only takes a couple of the big boys to rack up the US$ 80.
That being said – as we mentioned earlier – not everyone can go on a 3 month road trip and not everyone wants to visit this many National Parks.
So, the key is to establish which parks you want to visit, multiply the cost and determine if you would save money or not.
How Do I Buy My America The Beautiful Pass?
Another tick in the Pro’s side of buying the pass is ease of purchase. You can purchase your pass directly from the US National Park service or alternatively, you can pick one up in person at almost all of the 2,000+ federal recreation sites included with the pass.
Here are a list of resources for you to look into:
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