Guide to the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Site Passes (Part 2)

Autie Em and I got into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with no admission fee because she flashed her America the Beautiful Senior Pass.

Last week I told you about all of the the America the Beautiful Annual Passes: the basic Pass available for $80, the FREE America the Beautiful Pass for active members of the military and their dependents, and the America the Beautiful Annual and Lifetime Senior Passes. According to the National Park Service, any of these passes

is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A pass covers entrance, standard amenity fees and day use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.

Today I’ll tell you about other groups who can receive FREE America the Beautiful passes. Passes are available FREE to folks with disabilities, 4th graders, and federal volunteers.

Sign with National Park Service logo on it and the words Island in the Sky Visitor Center Canyonlands National Park National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior
Folks with disabilities who have the FREE America the Beautiful Access Pass can visit Canyonlands National Park without paying an admission fee.

A special America the Beautiful pass is available FREE to people with disabilities. According to the USGS Store, the Access Pass (formerly known as the Golden Access Passport) is

[a] free, lifetime pass – available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability (does not have to be a 100% disability)…

permanent disability is a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

The disability requirements for the Access Pass are not based on percentage of disability. To qualify for the Pass the disability must be permanent and limit one or more major life activities.

Orange Cliffs Overlook in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park

You must submit appropriate documents to prove that you have a disability before you will be issued an access pass.

Some examples of acceptable documentation include:
Statement by a licensed physician  (Statement must include: that the individual has a PERMANENT disability, that it limits one or more aspects of their daily life, and the nature of those limitations.) ; Document issued by Federal agency such as the Veteran’s Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Security Income; Document issued by a State agency such as a vocational rehabilitation agency.

The pass program for folks with disabilities is operated by five Federal agencies that operate under different regulations and have different fees. This means the discount program for this pass is handled differently on different federal recreation lands. You can research the discount guidelines here.

According to the National Park Service,

Peeling brown wooden sign reads Sequoia National Forest Campground Redwood.
Folks with the America the Beautiful Access Pass can often get a 50% discount on camping fees.

The Access Pass may provide a 50 percent discount on some amenity fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and specialized interpretive services.

The Access Pass generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.

It is important to remember that if there is a 50% discount on camping fees,

The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsite(s) occupied by members of the pass owner’s party.

As I mentioned above, the America the Beautiful Access Pass was formerly known as the Golden Access Passport. Like the Golden Age Passport, Golden Access Passports are no longer sold. However, Golden Access Passports are lifetime passes and are still honored under the terms of the America the Beautiful Access Pass. If a Golden Access Passport wears out or is lost, the pass owner must resubmit acceptable documentation to prove disability.

There is no age requirement for the Access Pass. Even a child with a permanent disability can receive an America the Beautiful Access Pass.

The National Park Service says there are two ways a person can obtain an Access Pass. One can get the Pass

In person at a federal recreation site (see PDF list of federal recreation sites that issue passes) [or] [t]hrough the mail using this application form (PDF).

Note: The cost of obtaining an Access Pass through the mail is $10 for processing the application. (The pass is free.)

Fourth graders and their grownups can see the wonders of nature (like these giant sequoias) at national parks (like Sequoia National Park) without having to pay an entrance fee if they have their Annual 4th Grade Pass.

The Annual 4th Grade Pass is available for FREE to every

U.S. 4th grade student (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age) with a printed voucher from the Every Kid Outdoors website. Students may not receive a pass without a valid voucher.

The get the voucher, 4th graders must complete a

web based activity on the Every Kid Outdoors website. [After a 4th grader completes the activity] they will be awarded their voucher package for printing. Once your 4th grader arrives at the participating Federal recreation site they may exchange their Every Kid Outdoors voucher for the Annual 4th grade Pass. A list of sites that issue passes is available. Please contact the Federal land you will be visiting in advance to ensure that they have the pass available.

According to the USGS Store,

The pass is valid for the duration of the 4th grade school year through the following summer (September – August).

Like the America the Beautiful Pass for active members of the military and their dependents, the Annual 4th Grade Pass

does not cover or provide a discount on expanded amenity fees such as camping, boat launch or interpretive fees.

Holders of most America the Beautiful Passes will receive free admission to White Sands National Monument. (The White Sands Fees & Passes page makes no mention of the Annual Military Pass or the Annual 4th Grade Pass.)

As I mentioned, a fourth grader must jump through a few hoops to get the FREE Annual 4th grade pass. Go to the Every Kid Outdoors website to learn about the hoops and do the jumping. Each 4th grader

[m]ust have a paper voucher printed from the Every Kid Outdoors website to obtain the Annual 4th Grade Pass. Digital versions of the voucher (such as [on] smart phones or tablets) will not be accepted.

The final free pass that allows access to federal recreations sites with no admission fee is the America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass.

A “Volunteer Pass” is an Annual Pass awarded to those individuals who volunteer 250 hours at one or more recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies as a way to say “thank you!”

According to an America the Beautiful document , the Volunteer Pass is

valid for one year from the month of issuance.

There are some other things to know about the Volunteer Pass.

There is no specific time frame in which volunteer hours must be accrued. Hours can be accrued over one, or several, calendar years.

You can accrue 250 hours by volunteering on Federal recreation lands managed by one or all of five agencies – NPS, BLM, USDA FS, FWS, and Reclamation. For example, you can volunteer 100 hours for each of the five agencies and earn a pass.

Once the 250 hour requirement is reached, a pass is issued, and the volunteer’s “pass hours”; are reset to zero and the count begins again.

Campground hosts are eligible to receive a Volunteer Pass once they have completed 250 hours of service.
Campsite with a picnic table under a shade structure and a fire ring
Camp hosts can receive the America the Beautiful Volunteer pass after completing 250 service hours.

To find out about volunteer opportunities at federal recreation sites, visit

To earn the America the Beautiful Volunteer Pass, volunteers must get all volunteer activities pre-approved by a volunteer coordinator. Activities that are not pre-approved may not count toward the 250 hours needed to earn a Volunteer Pass. Volunteers must get their record of volunteer hours signed by applicable Volunteer Coordinator(s). The Federal Volunteer Coordinator/Manager who authorizes that a volunteer has accrued 250 hours will issue the Volunteer Pass.

According to the USGS Store, with any pass

[p]hoto identification may be required to verify ownership [of pass]. Passes are NON-REFUNDABLE, NON-TRANSFERABLE, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Hopefully the information I’ve provided today and last week will help you decide if you want to get an America the Beautiful federal recreation pass. If you already have one, would you suggest that others get one? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Please note all information was correct to the best of my knowledge when this post was written. Blaize Sun is not responsible for changing prices or any other changes that may take place after this post was written. Use the information given here as the starting point of your own research. Blaize Sun is not responsible for you. Only you are responsible for you.

I took the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now I have a little travel trailer parked in a small RV park in a small desert town. I also have a minivan to travel in. When it gets too hot for me in my desert, I get in my minivan and move up in elevation to find cooler temperatures or I house sit in town in a place with air conditioning I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

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