A special park use is a short-term activity that occurs in a National Park Service area and:
All special park use applications are processed and reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Completion and submission of an application and application fee does not guarantee permit approval. Conditions applying to all permits include:
For further information about obtaining a Special Use Permit or determining if your activity needs a permit, please contact us.
Special Use Permits (Events, Weddings, Ceremonies, and More)
Special events such as weddings, ceremonies, gatherings, sporting events, scattering of ashes, and other similar activities require the approval of a permit and payment of fees before the activity can be conducted in the park.
Permits are not required for demonstrations, public assemblies, or distribution of printed material by 25 persons or fewer. All other First Amendment activities require the approval of a permit before the activity can be conducted in the park. Permit fees for First Amendment activities are waived.
Effective October 28, 2022 and following a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on October 21, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) functionally reinstated previous laws and regulations related to commercial filming in national parks. The NPS has rescinded the interim guidance that was in place during litigation and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks.
This means that all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. "Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Individual parks may require a permit for non-commercial filming if a permit is necessary to manage the activity to protect park resources and values, minimize conflict between user groups, or to ensure public safety. More details about filming and permits in parks are available online: Filming & Still Photography Permits (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Questions & Answers
When do you need a permit to film in parks?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. 423 units make up the National Park System, and includes National Parks, National Monuments, National Preserves, National Battlefield Parks, and more. A full list of parks in the National Park System is available online: National Park System (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
If you believe that your filming or photography activity may require a permit, you should submit a completed application to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible.
What is commercial filming?
"Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.
Do I need a permit for still photography?
In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography only when:
*A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.
If I’m a social media influencer, do I need a permit?
Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources.
All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.
How do I apply for a permit?
Permit applications are available through each park's administrative office or website. Contact information for parks can be found on their websites; Find a park where you would like to film or take photographs. If you believe that your filming or photography activity may require a permit, you should submit a completed application to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible.
Some parks may require that you provide advance notice a certain amount of days before filming or photography begins. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will help them process the submitted application in a timely manner.
How much does a filming permit cost?
Federal law requires the NPS to recover its administrative costs for commercial filming and still photography activities that require a permit. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the NPS in processing your request and monitoring the permitted activities. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of the permitted activities. The application fee must be submitted with your application.
In addition, Federal law also requires the NPS to collect a location fee that provides a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands for commercial filming and for still photography requires a permit. The NPS uses the following fee schedules for filming and photography:
Permits issued for non-commercial filming may be subject to cost recovery charges, including an application fee, but a separate location fee will not be charged.
I received a filming permit before October 28, but I have not started filming yet. Are the terms of my permit going to change?
No. You may film consistent with the terms of the permit that has already issued.
Are there other permit requirements?
You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.
Drones Not Permitted
Remotely piloted aircraft (drones) are not permitted for commercial filming, and the park superintendent will not seek higher level approval for any commercial filming activities. For more on National Park Service (NPS) policy regarding drone usage, please see:
Additionally, the use of a helicopter for commercial filming will not be permitted. For more information, please refer to the park's No Fly Advisory.
Commercial Use Authorizations
If you are a business such as a road-based tour company, climbing guide service, or other commercial company doing business in the park, please visit our Do Business With Us page to learn more.
Last updated: November 10, 2022