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US National Park Service rewards military members with annual free access pass

The U.S. National Park Service rewards military members for their service to country by offering an annual free access pass to sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees. According to the NPS site, the free admission, "Allows pass owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle to enter federally operated recreation sites across the country." If the site charges "per person" instead, the pass will cover the pass owner and three accompanying adults age 16 and older. (Note that no fee is charged for children 15 and under.)

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah
Karin Leperi

With some park admittance fees as high as $25 for a 7-day period, free entrance is a huge incentive for military members to come and experience the parks. The non-transferable pass is available to US military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, as well as most members of the US Reserves and National Guard. With proper military ID (CAC Card or DoD Form 1173), the military member can obtain a pass at any Federal recreation site that charges entrance or standard amenity fees. The pass does not cover what is known as "expanded amenity fees" such as camping, boat launch, or interpretive fees.

With a sweet deal like this, military members should plan a visit soon to any of the National Park's crown jewels. These include such national natural wonders as: Acadia (Maine), Death Valley (California), Glacier (Montana), Grand Canyon (Arizona), Olympic (Washington), Smoky Mountains (Tennessee, North Carolina), Yellowstone (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho), Yosemite (California), and Zion (Utah).

Or avoid the crowds and be wowed by the charms of some of the lesser visited parks that include: Arches (Utah), Big Bend (Texas), Carlsbad (New Mexico), Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), Guadalupe Mountains (New Mexico), and Joshua Tree (California). The pass also covers entrance to Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity fees at Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites.

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