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With 63 national parks in the National Park Service, an annual national park pass is a great way to explore these American treasures—and save some money.

National Park Annual Pass

In 1872, our nation’s first national park—Yellowstone—was born with the stroke of a pen, when the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.1 Today, 150 years later, the National Park Service’s system is made up of an impressive 423 units composed of national parks, national monuments, and nationally protected lands.2 Equally impressive, these units received a total of 237,064,332 visits in 2020.3 

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone became the nation’s first national park 150 years ago.


According to the National Park Service, the most visited national park of the country’s 63 national parks in 2020 was Great Smoky Mountains, with 12.1 million visits.4

Great Smoky Mountains
As the number-one visited national park in 2020, Great Smoky Mountains earned the “Great” in its name.


However, with 14.1 million visits in 2020, Blue Ridge Parkway, which is not a national park but is part of the National Park Service, was the most visited place in the system.5

Blue Ridge Parkway
It may not have national park status, but Blue Ridge Parkway still earned “most visited” status in the National Park Service’s system in 2020.

Annual National Park Pass

Not surprisingly, with so many people actively visiting lands in the National Park Service’s system, the federal government offers an annual pass. This pass is known as the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

As of the time of this writing, in 2022, this versatile pass can be purchased for $80, and it provides access to over 2,000 recreation areas nationwide that are managed by five separate federal agencies. The pass is valid for one full year from the month of its purchase, and up to 100 percent of the proceeds from America the Beautiful passes are used to improve visitor recreation services.6

America The Beautiful
An America the Beautiful annual pass gets you into over 2,000 recreation areas nationwide for one year for only $80.

How Do I Buy an Annual National Park Pass?

You can purchase an America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass at hundreds of locations nationwide, which can be viewed by clicking or tapping here. You can also purchase an annual pass by calling the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at 888-275-8747 or by visiting USGS’s online store or recreation.gov. Your annual national park pass will be issued immediately if purchased at a site location; however, it could take up to 10 business days to receive your annual pass in the mail if purchased via the phone or online.

National Park Service Visitor Center
You can purchase an America the Beautiful annual pass at most National Park Service locations—or online or over the phone.

Can I Get a Free Annual National Park Pass?

Purchasing an America the Beautiful annual national park pass is not the only way to acquire one. The following national park passes are free or discounted if you qualify:

Military Pass: If you are currently serving, or have served, your country in the military, you qualify for a free annual pass. This military pass is available for:

  • Current U.S. military members and their dependents, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Space Force, and Reserve and National Guard members
  • U.S. military vets
  • Gold Star Family members

Access Pass: If you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a permanent disability, you qualify for a free lifetime pass. Documentation of your permanent disability and residency are required.

Fourth Grade Pass: Every U.S. fourth-grader—including home-schooled students and free-choice learners who are 10 years old—can get a free American the Beautiful pass valid for the duration of the student’s school year through the following summer (September through August). To get this pass, a fourth-grader need simply first obtain a paper pass at the Every Kid Outdoors website and then exchange it for an America the Beautiful pass at one of the hundreds of onsite locations where passes are sold.

Volunteer Pass: If you’ve volunteered for 250 or more documented service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program, you qualify for a free America the Beautiful annual Volunteer Pass

Senior Pass: While this pass is not free, it is substantially discounted for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are 62 years old and up. There are two Senior Pass options:

  • An Annual Senior Pass for $20
  • A Lifetime Senior Pass for $80
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
With 13.2 million acres of land, Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest park in the National Park Service. 7

Get a Statement Credit for an Annual National Park Pass with Wander™ Card

The Credit One Bank Wander Card is a Visa® credit card that’s geared toward rewarding adventure on the open road, including visiting our country’s national parks, national monuments, and nationally protected lands. To encourage card members to get out there and explore, Credit One Bank offers new Wander Card members up to an $80 statement credit when they use their Wander Card to purchase an America the Beautiful pass either onsite at one of the hundreds of locations nationwide or online at recreation.gov or usgs.gov (excludes processing fee) within the first year of opening their account.

In addition to reimbursing you one time for up to $80 of the purchase price of an America the Beautiful annual pass, the Wander Card also offers reward points to encourage you to hit the open road in search of adventure. You can earn 5X points on eligible recreational and amusement park purchases (including national parks and sporting events), 3X points on eligible restaurants and lodging purchases (including campgrounds), and 1X points on all other purchases made with the card.

If you’re anticipating hitting the road soon and want to be rewarded for your travel, it’s worth seeing if you Pre-Qualify for a Credit One Bank Wander Card. It takes less than a minute and won’t harm your credit score.  

New River Gorge, West Virginia
In December 2020, New River Gorge, in West Virginia, became the country’s newest national park, number 63 if you’re counting. 8

Get Out There and Start Exploring!

No matter how you acquire yours, an America the Beautiful annual pass opens over 2,000 doors to adventure. So, get yours and take full advantage of the greatest national park system in the world—and help support the National Park Service’s mission with the proceeds from your pass.

Terms, fees & conditions



  1. https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/historyculture/yellowstoneestablishment.htm
  2. https://www.farandwide.com/s/most-least-popular-national-parks-18cf91b0ab7c4fef
  3. https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/02-25-21-national-parks-hosted-237-million-visitors-in-2020.htm
  4. https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/visitation-numbers.htm
  5. https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/visitation-numbers.htm
  6. https://store.usgs.gov/pass
  7. https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/size-largest-national-parks-will-blow-your-mind
  8. https://abcnews.go.com/US/americas-newest-national-park/story?id=78848287

About the author:

Sean P. Egen

After realizing he couldn’t pay back his outrageous film school student loans with rejection notices from Hollywood studios, Sean focused his screenwriting skills on scripting corporate videos. Videos led to marketing communications, which led to articles and, before he knew it, Sean was making a living as a writer. He continues to do so today by leveraging his expertise in credit, financial planning, wealth-building, and living your best life for Credit One Bank.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor. Readers should consult with their own tax advisor, attorney or financial advisor with regard to their personal situations.