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How Veterans can get free entrance to National Parks

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July 7, 2022
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According to the National Park Service, “Gold Star Families and US military veterans are eligible to receive free lifetime access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.”

The steps are really simple!

All you need is one of the following:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (non-expired CAC Card)  
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) 
  • Veteran ID Card  
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued US driver’s license or identification card

From there, plan your trip and head to the visitor center, or admittance fee booth, at your desired destination. Feel free to call ahead to make sure you go to the right place, during the correct operating hours. No one likes showing up to an empty booth. 

Upon verification, you will be issued a year-long pass. Later in 2022, life long passes will be available for Veterans and Gold Star Families, so keep an eye out for those. 

To read more of the specifics, visit the National Parks Service page by clicking here.

The pass will grant you free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.

Veteran Identification

Each state has a different requirement for locally issued ID cards. So, check with your DMV, or City Hall, for details. 

To apply for a Veteran ID card from the department of Veteran Affairs, click here.

Be advised, the program does not cover expanded amenity fees. These include camping fees, and tours or special recreation permits. Also, reservation fees and fees for organized groups or concession-operated facilities or activities may not be included.

I personally used this benefit while on a trip to Skyline Drive. The breathtaking views were only made better knowing I was seeing them, for freeeeeeeeee!

About the author: Daniel Sharp is an OIF and OEF veteran who deployed five times while serving in the United States Marine Corps infantry. He is the founder of Pop Smoke Media, and an advocate for veterans, and those still serving.

Header Photo Credit: Cyclists in Joshua Tree National Park Service (Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz) 

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