Senior citizens are about to see their cost for visiting national parks jump eight-fold.
That’s because the lifetime pass charge will jump from $10 to $80, effective on Monday, according to the National Parks System. While this is the first increase for the passes since 1994, it effectively eliminates senior citizen discounts, putting the cost at the same level as a regular yearly pass.
Although of the 417 National Parks, only 118 have an entrance fee, the pass provides additional amenities including discounts at snack and souvenir shops.
“It’s a really good deal,” said local resident Connie Ashman, who said she has saved about $100 in the year she has had her pass. “I just love having it and not having to work sightseeing into the [travel] budget.”
Those seniors who have a tight budget and cannot afford the $80 lifetime pass can still receive the benefit of the pass. A yearly pass can be purchased for $20. According to the National Parks website, four annual senior passes purchased in prior years can be traded in for a lifetime pass.
The senior pass also can benefit those who do not fit into requirement parameters requiring purchasers to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents 62 years or older.
“You can get other people in on your pass,” said Ashman.
The senior passes admit pass owner and passengers in a noncommercial vehicle at “per-vehicle fee areas and pass owner plus three adults,” where where per-person fees are normally charged, according to the park service web site.
The passes also provide selective discounts at some sites including camping, swimming, boating and other activities including camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville.
Other sites in North Carolina which accept the passes include Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, Smokemont Campground in Cherokee and W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir in Wilksboro, although the Cape Hatteras sites do not.
It is the more distant parks, however, that cause the most excitement including the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Arizona, the Alcatraz Visitors Center and Redwood National Park in California, the Everglades National Park in Florida, Glacier National Park in Minnesota and even Christiansted National Historic Site in the Virgin Islands.
“[The pass] includes almost every state, even Hawaii,” said Ashman, however it is recommended that visitors call the park they wish to attend to confirm acceptance of the pass and other details.
Not all the parks covered are national locations. According to the website, “passes provide access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies: National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, US Forest Service, and US Army Corps of Engineers.”
Ashman recently visited Zion National Park in Utah, which is one of the locations which is part of the National Parks Service.
“I would have to say Bryce Canyon in Zion has been my favorite because of the colors of the mountains and the formations,” said Ashman, who also has been to the Arches and Snow Canyon recently as well as the Ring of Fire in Nevada thanks to the senior pass.
“I love [the senior pass],” said an emphatic Ashman. “You get to see things that you normally wouldn’t get to see, that normally cost a good amount to get into.”
For more information about America The Beautiful National Park passes, go to nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.