What Is A National Parks Pass?

 What Is A National Parks Pass

Whether you’re already an avid traveler or you’re just starting out, you obviously have a passion for getting out there and seeing what else this world has to offer. There’s something so thrilling and terrifying about traveling to a completely new place. You don’t know how it will be or what you’ll find but you’re doing it anyway and you’re sure as hell going to find out.

What is a National Park?

If you’re thinking of traveling around the States then you must have heard of the National Park Pass. If not, we’re here to walk you through everything you need to know. Firstly, let’s start with the basics like what actually is a national park? You might wonder how a national park differs from a regular park and there are a few distinct differences. A national park is an area that possesses some form of recreational, natural or cultural aspect that cannot be found elsewhere. It could hold a unique ecosystem of plants or wildlife, a particular natural landform or have a rich cultural tie that would be lost if it were not protected. That is the other requirement to declare a place a national park; it must be in need of protection that can only be fulfilled by the National Park Service. Pretty special, huh?

What Is A National Parks Pass?

All in all, there are 419 national park sites in the US, 61 of which are classed as National Park destinations. Not all states are created equal when it comes to national parks. Some states have none whereas California has nine! Bit greedy if you ask us, but I guess we know where we’re going next! If you’re interested in visiting national parks whilst traveling the US you should definitely consider getting the National Parks Pass.

The National Parks Pass includes entry into over 2,000 federal recreation sites around the US. With the pass it waives all entrance fees, day use fees for drivers and passengers as well as standard day amenity fees.

national parks pass

How Much Is The National Parks Pass?

You’re probably thinking this would be a super expensive thing to buy considering how much you get but it’s only $80 for the whole year. Yes, just $80 for a year! If you’re a senior citizen in the US then you can get a pass for just $20 for the year or $80 for a lifetime! Even better, if you’re in the military, pick up a pass for free.

How much would it normally cost me to go to a National Park?

Okay, so if you’re traveling around and you want to visit say the Grand Canyon, that’s going to cost you $35 per car. Then, of course, you want to check out Yosemite, Arches and Zion because, come on, they’re amazing. That’s another $35 each. You’ve already spent $140 on just four parks. It soon adds up. It is worth figuring out which parks you want to visit though because there are plenty which are free including Hot Springs National Park, Alcatraz Island, Redwood National Parks and Channel Islands National Park.

Alright, you’ve convinced me but where do I get one?

If you’re convinced that the National Park Pass would enhance your traveling experience around the states then don’t hesitate and grab your pass now from here. This can take a couple weeks to get shipped out to you though and does incur a fee of about $10. If you need yours quicker than this or just want to avoid any extra fees then get your active pants on and get down to any participating federal recreation site.

Is the National Park Pass good for people living the Van Life?

Right, now we know what the pass includes, how much it costs and where to get one we can look at whether it’ll suit your van living lifestyle. Honestly, we think that a campervan or RV is the best way you could visit these national parks. It offers you so much more freedom than public transport and you can avoid all the costs of expensive hotels. We all know how these places hike (pun intended) the prices at sought after destinations like these. Save money on hotels AND get to travel for longer and see more; we don’t see any down side to this.

Another defining factor on why van life and national park life go hand in hand is the stunning scenery. If you’re in a hotel you’re going to be paying extortionate rates and maybe not even get a good view. At least in a van you can angle yourself whichever way you wish and guarantee yourself a wow-I-can’t-believe-this-is-our-life view every morning. Honestly, I’m not much of a morning person. Okay, I’m a “I will hurt you before 9am unless you bring me coffee” kind of person, but there’s just something about waking up in your van, swinging open those back doors and seeing how unbelievably stunning this world can be that takes all that away.

Your favorite national parks or camping spots will of course be subjective to you, but if you’re unsure where to start, here’s what we think are some of the best national parks to visit in your campervan.

  1. Glacier National Park – Well, what can we say about this national park in Montana. Stretching over 1-million acres, this park will take you through forests, alpine lakes, spectacular glacier-carved valleys and rugged mountain peaks. Although popular, the Going-to-the-Sun road that runs over Logan Pass is not to be missed. It’s one of those catch-your-breath, crazy beautiful moments that us vanlifers are lucky enough to experience. Stay in one of their 13 designated campsites and get out there exploring over 700-miles of trails.

  2. Yellowstone National Park – This park simply cannot be missed. Spanning three states (Montana, Wyoming and Idaho) this would be a great park to visit after the Glacier National Park. With more than 500 active geysers, mudspots, hot springs and fumaroles you will not be short of activities. There are a generous 13 campgrounds to choose from here. Bridge Bay is a particularly awesome one offering views across the Yellowstone lake as well as the Absaroka Range.

  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Looking for something a little different? This national park is one of the most diverse, with 19,000 reported species found and an expected 80,000-100,000 more species suspected of living here. Maybe you could be the one to find some of those! If you’re a mountain lover then the 800 square miles of Southern Appalachian Mountains should pique your interest. Visiting this national park in your van is simple, with 10 campgrounds to choose from depending on which area of the park you want to explore.

With all that said and done we hope you have a better understanding of the National Park Pass and how it can contribute and enhance your van life experience. This is what van life is all about; getting out there into some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, experiencing pristine natural beauty how it was intended to be seen, and falling in love over and over with this crazy, phenomenal place we call home.

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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