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Bad News for Lost National Parks Passes

National Park Passes have only been around for approximately 20 years, but they’re relatively popular. Maybe you have considered getting one but weren’t sure.

Perhaps this article will help you decide.

Keep reading to learn more about the passes, their benefits, and what happens if they get lost.

Ok, let’s go! 

What is a National Parks Pass?

The National Parks Pass, also called America the Beautiful Pass or Interagency Pass, allows the owner to enter over 2,000 federally protected places. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act created the pass, and Congress authorized it in December 2004. 

Some parks have similar cards, but those are specific to one park location. The National Parks Pass covers national parks, national monuments, and national historic sites. 

The passes also work in areas managed by National Park Services (NPS), Forest Services, Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and more. 

The proceeds from pass sales go to improving and enhancing visitor recreation services. 

The NPS only issues National Parks Passes in physical form. Every time you go to a park that accepts the passes, you must have the physical card, not an email or receipt. Be prepared to show your photo identification as well. 

So, How Do I Replace a Lost National Parks Pass?

According to the NPS website, “Interagency Passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, cannot be extended and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.” So if you lose your pass, you have to purchase a new one.

It doesn’t matter which pass you have – you still have to repurchase it if lost.

While this may be disappointing, just consider it a donation to the NPS. 

There are other ways to help national parks. You can make purchases at park stores or donate to the National Park Foundation. 

You can also give via Amazon Smile. A portion of your Amazon purchase goes to the charity of your choice; you can select from various national parks.

The Benefits of a National Parks Pass

The pass covers the owner’s entrance fees plus admission for children and other adults. The card allows free entry for everyone in the non-commercial vehicle for parks that charge per vehicle. At parks where admission fees are per person, the owner, three other adults, and kids under 15 are free. 

Free admission for a few people may not seem like much savings. However, when you consider that some parks charge up to $35 per vehicle or $20 per person, you can see how that can add up quickly. If you go with a large family that charges per person, an annual pass can pay for itself in just one visit. 

Man hiking in national park.
Save money by investing in a national park pass, but make sure not to lose it!

What Kinds of National Parks Passes Are There?


Annual America the Beautiful Pass costs $80, and anyone over 16 can purchase it. Unlike most other passes, two people can own this one, and they don’t need to be related or married. Once purchased, free admission is available for 12 months from the month of purchase. 

If the two pass holders are on motorcycles and arrive simultaneously, they will be admitted. Parks will also accept anyone riding as passengers. 


The national parks also issue special passes to military personnel, veterans, dependents, and Gold Star Families. Only one person can own a pass, but military dependents can get their own cards. 

Sometime in 2022, a “Lifetime Pass” will be available for qualifying veterans and Gold Star Families. 

Anyone seeking a military pass must supply proper documentation. It’s free in person at issuing sites. Otherwise, the NPS charges processing fees of $10. 

Pro Tip: For military members, military campgrounds can offer an affordable camping option while RVing. We took a closer look at What Is A Military Campground to help you plan your trip!

4th Grade

Fourth-grade students qualify for free national park admission valid for the school year (September to August). The pass is for traditionally schooled fourth-graders, homeschoolers, and free-choice learners ten years of age. 

It gives the student free admission and accompanying passengers in a non-commercial vehicle. The student, other children under 16, and up to three adults get in free at per-person sites.


Annual ($20) and lifetime ($80) Senior passes are available for any U.S. citizen or permanent resident 62 and older. In addition to the purchase price, there’s a processing fee of $10 for residency and proof of age documentation. 

Unlike most other passes, this one gives discounts for “Expanded Amenity Fees” such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours. If a senior has the annual pass already, they can exchange it for a discounted Senior Lifetime pass. 

Pro Tip: Learn more about What is the National Park Senior Pass before you head out on your adventure!


Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a documented permanent disability is eligible for a free lifetime pass. The disability must limit at least one significant life activity. 

Although it’s free, there’s a document processing fee of $10 for proof of permanent disability. The pass gives the holder discounts on “Expanded Amenity Fees” like camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours. 


Public lands volunteers that donate 250 or more hours are eligible for a free pass. It covers the pass holder and friends. Like the other passes, it covers everyone in a non-commercial vehicle and up to four adults and kids under 16 in per-person fee areas.

How Do I Purchase a National Parks Pass?

National Parks Passes can be purchased on-site, online, via phone, or by mail. You must present a physical pass, so if you need your card in ten days or less, you might want to purchase it on-site, or you can request expedited shipping. 

We do recommend contacting a location to ensure they offer pass sales. The Senior and Access Pass applications can be printed and mailed. Those interested in the 4th Grade Pass can also purchase it via the Every Kid Outdoors website. 

Is a National Parks Pass Worth Replacing If It’s Lost? 

Yes, if you lose your National Parks Pass, we think it’s worth replacing. Not only does the pass give you free admission, but proceeds go right back to the parks system. 

Do you own a National Parks Pass? What would you do if you lost yours? Let us know in the comments. 

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