National Parks Pass: How Foreigners (and Americans) Can Get the America the Beautiful Pass

Everyone says the National Park system is America’s best invention. That’s a given. A strong second would be the National Parks Pass, AKA the America the Beautiful Pass. It allows visitors to visit and recreate all federal lands (US National Parks, National Forests, Wildernesses, National Monuments, etc.) for a calendar year for an annual fee of $80.

Other countries are catching on. When I was exploring Tasmania recently, their yearly pass was similar to ours. In my mind, more people experiencing nature is a good thing.

But for those visiting our national parks from outside the US and planning a considerable road trip, grabbing the America the Beautiful Pass is one of your best choices. Below, we’ll discuss how to get one.

How to get the America the Beautiful Pass as a Foreigner

First off, getting your national parks pass is incredibly easy, and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. We thankfully have multiple ways to grab it that require almost no effort. I would not recommend getting it before you land in the US. You’ll likely have some crazy high shipping rates that are not necessary.

What Days Have Entrance Fees Waived in 2024?

Option 1: Get It When You Enter a National Park or Monument

The easiest option to acquire your National Parks Pass is to drive up to the entrance booth at any National Park and buy it there. It’ll be $80, and they will punch a hole in the date for 2025, and you’ll be set.

From there, sign your name on the back, and every time you enter a park, show them the America the Beautiful Pass along with your ID.

two hikes on the trail in the mountains
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Option 2: Get the National Parks Pass at REI* or Online at USGS

Maybe you’re flying into the United States but won’t enter a National Park immediately. There are a couple of options here. You can purchase a National Parks Pass in the store at some REI’s. They will punch, and you’ll be good to go. (However, not every REI has them, so double-check.)

Another idea is to buy it online and mail it to where you’ll be staying. This might not be feasible, but it could work in some circumstances. (If you are visiting California, you may need a state pass.)

(If you buy via the REI link, I get a small commission, which helps my business.)

Option 3: Visit Another Federal Office That Sells It

A final option to buy a pass is at a Bureau of Land Management Office or National Forest/Ranger Station. Ranger Stations are pretty easy to search for. One thing to note, though, is they work during regular business hours, so if you show up at 8pm, no one will likely be there.

Option 4: Random Locations in Some Towns Sell It

Yeah, this one can be confusing. However, some towns or locales have stores that sell the National Parks Pass and other passes for local recreation. As you can expect, this is harder to pin down and know about. Just keep an eye out as you’re driving because they will have signs out front.

FAQ: America the Beautiful Pass

What Does the National Parks Pass Not Cover?

The pass does not cover entrance fees to state parks, tribal lands, or private property. It only covers recreation on federal public lands. While there are plenty of uses East of the Mississippi, the pass truly gets its money’s worth in the Western United States.

With loads of public land out west, it is a ‘must-have’ for those who live here and enjoy time outside.

a female hiker looks out at snowcapped mountains in washington
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Explain to me the different America the Beautiful Passes

America the Beautiful Pass – Standard

This is the standard National Parks Pass that people think of when they hear about and buy the card. This is for ordinary Americans (and foreigners) over the age of 16, and it costs $80.

America the Beautiful Pass – Senior

The Senior pass is a lifetime pass. Anyone 62 and older and a permanent US Resident is eligible for the card. If you purchase one online, you’ll have to provide documentation, and there’s a $10 extra processing fee, so the total comes out to $90.

In addition to free entry, Annual Senior Pass holders can also receive discounts at campgrounds, guided tours, and more.

Other Passes: Lifetime Military Pass, 4th Grade Pass, Volunteer Pass, Access Pass

These passes are as described. The one that might not make sense is the Access Pass, which is for those with disabilities.

How many locations does the National Parks Pass work at?

It works at over 2,000 recreation areas managed by federal agencies throughout the United States. It works at the following:

  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation 
  • Fish and Wildlife Service 
  • USDA Forest Service 
  • National Park Service 
  • US Army Corps of Engineers 

What do I do if a location doesn’t have an entrance booth?

This will happen more times than you would expect. Most locations outside the National Park won’t have people checking you in. After you park, put your National Parks Pass on the dashboard with your signature facing up.

That’s all. Then, go have fun!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside