You are here

Active-Duty Military Members To Gain Free Access To National Parks


In a show of support for the U.S. military, the Obama administration has announced that all active-duty members of the military will be given free access to the entire National Park System.

The annual passes will be given out under the administration's Joining Forces initiative designed to support the soldiers, sailors, and airmen and their families. The passes also are good for visiting national forests, wildlife refuges, and othe public lands.

“First Lady Michelle Obama and I started the Joining Forces initiative last year as a way to honor, recognize and support our veterans and military families,” said Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe BIden. “This effort is a wonderful way to give something back, giving our military men and women and their families a chance to reconnect with their loved ones, experience the beauty of this country, and simply have a little fun.”

Beginning on Armed Forces Day on May 19, active duty service men and women – Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and activated National Guard and Reserves – can obtain the new military version of the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass. The pass will be accepted at National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.

The initiative was announced Monday during a ceremony at Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Virginia, where Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy distributed the first passes to one member from each of the military’s five branches.

“Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our service men and -women who make great sacrifices and put their lives on the lines to protect our country and preserve our freedom,” Secretary Salazar said. “In recognition of their contributions and service, we are putting out a welcome mat for these brave men and women and their families at America’s most beautiful and storied sites.”

"Our country's iconic memorials, open spaces, and majestic landscapes provide inspiration for those serving in the military, especially those far from home," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, whose agency oversees national forests. "In appreciation for their service, we want to encourage these men and women and their families to visit and enjoy America's wondrous lands and waterways."

Military members and their dependents can pick up a pass at any national park or wildlife refuge that charges an entrance fee or other selected sites. Members must show a current, valid military identification card to obtain their pass. The pass is also available to dependents of active duty personnel.

Where there are entrance fees, the pass covers the owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle at recreation sites that charge per vehicle. At sites where per-person entrance fees are charged, it covers the pass owner and three accompanying adults age 16 and older. There is no entry fee for children 15 and under.

While the pass is not available to veterans and retirees, many of these individuals are eligible for other discounted passes, such as the Senior Pass, granting lifetime access to U.S. citizens over 62 for $10, and the Access Pass granting free lifetime access for permanently disabled U.S. citizens.


Well done, Mr. President.

I called Rocky Mountain National Park about the Military Passes. The employees had no idea what I was talking about. I explained it was to start Saturday. They stated they did not have those passes and they didn't know what to do for me.

Happy to see the soldiers get the passes. I hope the NPS gets to forward the bill for the passes to the Defense Department, though.

Bob:Happy to see the soldiers get the passes. I hope the NPS gets to forward the bill for the passes to the Defense Department, though.

For me, I'd like the action to give active duty a pass to be about showing gratitude for all that they do, for all of us, Parks included. End of discussion.


Let me go at this a second time, and I'll stop. My objections are not about the troops, and they're not about national parks. This is an example of deceptive, dishonest politics. I am opposed to deceptive, dishonest politics.

1. It's not fair to the troops. Obama is giving the troops an annual pass worth $85. If you like the troops so much, give them $85 in cash. Or let them pick, "Do you want $85 or a multi-agency pass?" Why *force* troops to take a pass or nothing? Some troops have different interests and might use the $85 in a different way.

2. It's deceptive. Many troops won't know about it. Park staff might know about it (see above comment). It's like a rebate at a big-box retailer: they expect people not to use it, so it's not real.

3. It's dishonest budgeting. In the unlikely event that all of the troops picked up their pass, it would cost $123,833,270 (1,456,862 active duty personnel @ $85). That's 3.9% of the NPS budget. It would be 0.0175% of the defense budget, if it were charged there. By not budgeting it, you hide whatever costs there are.

By "giving the troops a pass to visit the national parks," Obama makes it look both desirable and free. Nothing is free.

Its a frikkin bone. They get thrown from time to time. I'll be taking advantage of it to the best of my ability.

Above argument is a crazy, straw grasping, .... Worked for military for almost 20 years now, never had a more popular president with the actual active duty troops. Crotchety old types dislike him while wearing their VFW hats and appearing on local news. I earn too much and get too many benefits, when compared to my non government working peers. Yes a lot of my nearby federal employee friends claim they earn their multi hundred thousand dollar per annum pay. They mostly don't. I'm set up to retire at 40 with free health care the rest of my life, after a pretty damn easy 20 years of "work". 30 days of paid leave and a bunch of extra holidays no one else gets while earning 6 figures having never graduated college and getting to "play soldier". Its the dream. Not for everyone sure, but nothing is.

Thanks for the park passes, they are indeed appreciated and a grand gesture.

Yeah, but Bob, is there anything in politics that is not deceptive?

But in the latest issue of Hilltop Times, a publication for personnel at Hill Air Force Base, there is a short article about this.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide