For senior citizens who want to see America first, or again, here’s a perk available from the National Park Service: $10 lifetime passes for those 62 years and older if you apply in person; $20 passes if you apply online or by mail.
But you’ve got to apply by Monday August 28. After that, the lifetime senior passes will increase to $80 per person.
If you go the internet or snail-mail route, however, be prepared to wait — and wait. Online applications for the National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Senior Passes can take six to 10 weeks to process.
Reports that the National Park Service would be raising prices for senior lifetime passes prompted an onslaught of online applications starting last year — a backlog estimated at 20,000 to 80,000 applications, according to officials.
Tom Crosson, National Park Service spokesman, noted that the price increase, released Monday July 10, was mandated by Congress.
“There’s a huge rollout involved,” Crosson said, including new cards, re-keying cash registers, and educating the workforce.
The senior pass provides free admission to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites nationwide to the holder of the pass and three accompanying passengers in a single, private vehicle. Photo identification may be required to verify pass ownership. Passes are nonrefundable, nontransferable, and cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.
The Senior Pass has cost $10 since 1994. Until August 28, U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are 62 years or older can purchase the lifetime Senior Pass for $10. Previously purchased lifetime Golden Age or Senior Passes will be honored for the lifetime of the pass holder.
Here’s how U.S. citizens and permanent residents can buy the senior passes:
In person. At federal recreation sites, the cost is $10 a pass. Bring proof of age and U.S. citizenship or permanent residence. For a full list of federal recreation sites where passes can be purchased in person, visit the USGS website. For example, eastern Pennsylvania sites include Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton and Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, near the state’s border with New Jersey and New York. In New Jersey, sites include the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Galloway, near Atlantic City.
Online. Upload copies of documentation of U.S. citizenship or permanent residence and birth date, such as your driver’s license, passport, or state-issued ID. These may be uploaded as jpegs, GIFs, pngs, or pdfs. It is recommended that separate accounts be created online for each person who wants a pass, for ease of processing names and information. The fee is $20.
By mail. If you apply using a paper application, you must provide photocopies of the same documentation of age and U.S. citizenship or residency. The fee is $20.
Because the senior pass program is managed by six federal agencies that operate under different regulations and have different fees, discounts may not be handled the same way at all national parks and federal recreation lands locations. In general:
- At individual campsites, the discount applies only to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsites occupied by members of the pass owner’s party.
- At campsites with utility hookups: If utility fees are charged separately, there is no discount. The discount may apply if the utility fee is combined with the campsite fee.
- At group campsites and facilities (including picnic areas or pavilions): There is no discount for group campsites and other group facilities that charge a flat fee. If the group campsite has a per-person fee, only the pass owner receives a discount; others using the site pay the full fee.
- For guided tours: The pass offers discounts on some tours. Only the pass owner receives a discount, if offered.
- For transportation and concession fees, inquire at the recreation site.