On Monday, the price for a lifetime national park pass for senior citizens will jump from $10 to $80.
If you’re 62 or older, now is the time to get yours because that’s a huge price hike.
But this isn’t a reason to complain about how the government is putting the squeeze on seniors. Even at $80, the pass is a phenomenal bargain. Try getting a lifetime movie pass for that amount.
The cost of a non-senior pass is $80 a year, still a good buy for those who enjoy this country’s national treasures, and less than the cost of a few movie dates over the same time span.
For those seniors who use the pass for 10 years, the annualized cost is only $8. By contrast, parks like Yellowstone or Grand Canyon charge $10-$12 per person to enter. Spend a couple weeks visiting parks across the West and the fees add up fast – unless the driver has a pass, in which case a carload of four people pays nothing.
The official name of the pass is the “National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass” because it includes admission to recreational sites managed by five other federal agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Corps of Engineers. It also provides discounts on some other amenities.
Seniors for whom $80 is a big bill to pay all at once can buy a $20 annual senior pass; at the end of four years of purchasing those passes, they can exchange them for a lifetime pass. That is a considerate offer.
Note that seniors who already have a Senior Pass do not need to purchase a new one. Passes purchased before Monday remain valid. Senior Passes are available at any federal recreation site that charges an entrance or day-use fee, like Mesa Verde National Park.
They are also available online through the USGS Store at https://store.usgs.gov/senior-pass.
The money goes to a good cause. Funds collected from the sale of senior passes are used for projects within the National Park Service system. The legislation that created the price increase specified that spending would “prioritize deferred maintenance projects, physical improvements to visitor services facilities and trail maintenance.”
At the current price, the pass is a steal. At $80, it is still a blue-chip value and a worthwhile investment in beautiful and meaningful places.