Free Entrance to National Parks for Veterans and Gold Star Families

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The National Park Service in partnership with Operation Live Well would like to thank military personnel and their families for their service and invite them to enjoy their national parks.

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 free Military Pass is a way to thank America’s veterans, Gold Star Families, and current military and their dependents for their support of our country and to encourage them to explore recreational opportunities on their public lands and waters.

On This Page: Frequently Asked Questions Navigation

What is the Military, Veterans, and Gold Star Family Free Access Program?

The Interagency Annual Military Pass provides free entrance to national parks and other federal recreation areas to current U.S. military members and their dependents, U.S. military veterans, and Gold Star Families.

The entrance fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits, reservation fees or special tours.

For more information about the Interagency Military Pass Program, please visit USGS Pass Store - Military Pass Frequently Asked Questions.

Who is eligible to gain free entrance as a veteran?

For purposes of this program, a veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the US Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification or the Interagency Military Pass when entering a national park:

  • 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

Who is eligible to gain free access as a member of a Gold Star Family?

Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the US Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the US Armed Forces. Eligibility requirements are in section 3.2 of Department of Defense Instruction 1348.36.

Is there a “Lifetime Pass” for Veterans and Gold Star Families?

Yes. Congress recently passed legislation authorizing a free lifetime pass to national parks and other federal recreation areas for eligible U.S. military veterans and Gold Star families. In recent years, they were able to receive annual passes. The new lifetime passes will be available to distribute later in 2022. Until then, Gold Star families and veterans may continue to use The Interagency Annual Military Pass with proof of eligibility as described above.

Does the waiver include others traveling with the veteran or Gold Star Family member?

Free access is for the veteran or the holder of the Military Pass-Gold Star Family voucher as well as travelling companions who are occupants of a single, private non-commercial vehicle OR the veteran or voucher-holder and three persons (16 and older) where per person fees are charged. The voucher is non-transferrable and void if altered.

What agencies are participating in the free access program?

The program waives entrance or standard amenity fees for the following agencies:

How does a veteran gain free entrance to a national park?

In national parks that charge an entrance fee, a veteran will need to present one of the following forms of identification to receive a free Interagency Military Pass:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (non-expired CAC Card)

  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

  • Veteran ID Card

  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

It’s especially important to obtain the Interagency Military Pass to display on the vehicle dashboard at unstaffed sites. View a list of federal locations that issue passes.

At sites that do not issue annual Interagency Military Passes, showing the above forms of identification will allow free entrance.

Veterans can also obtain a free Military Pass online through the USGS Store. There is a $10 online processing fee.

How does a Gold Star Family gain free access to a national park?

Before visiting a national park site, Gold Star Family members must download and print a voucher to present to park staff, exchange for an Interagency Military Pass, or place on the vehicle dashboard at unstaffed sites (representations of the voucher are prohibited; the physical voucher or pass must be present). View a list of federal locations that issue passes.

By downloading and signing the voucher, Gold Star Family members are self-certifying that they meet the required criteria as identified in sections 3.2 and 3.3 of Department of Defense Instruction 1348.36. Following is the self-certification language on the voucher:

I hereby affirm that I am an eligible next of kin (NOK) of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a qualifying situation, such as war, an international terrorist attack or a military operation outside of the United States while serving in the United States Armed Forces, as identified in sections 3.2 (Qualifying Situation) and 3.3 (Eligible NOK) of Department of Defense Instruction 1348.36.

Download the Gold Star Family Voucher.


Gold Star Family members can obtain a free Military Pass online through the USGS Store. There is a $10 online processing fee.

How long will free access be available?

Veterans and Gold Star Families receive free lifetime access. Currently, they can receive a Military pass that is valid for one year. By the end of 2022, they will be able to acquire a free lifetime pass.

Are there any costs to participate?

No. The voucher covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands and at lands managed by the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and US Army Corps of Engineers.

Fees still apply for expanded amenities such as camping, tours and special recreation permits. Reservation fees and fees for organized groups or concession-operated facilities or activities may not be covered by the voucher or Interagency Pass.

What is covered by the free access program?

The voucher covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees (day use fees) at national forests and grasslands and on lands managed by the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and US Army Corps of Engineers.

What is not covered by the free access program?

The program does not cover expanded amenity fees such as camping, tours or special recreation permits; reservation fees and fees for organized groups or concession-operated facilities or activities may not be included.

Can current members of the military receive free entrance to national parks? Who else can receive free entrance?

Current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents can enter national parks for free with an annual Interagency Military Pass through the America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands (Interagency) Pass Program. There are a total of seven Interagency Passes available. For more information and to obtain these passes, please visit the USGS Store.

Are passes available for disabled veterans or other people with disabilities?

Yes. The Interagency Access Pass is a lifetime pass that is free for any US citizen or permanent resident, including a veteran or Gold Star Family member, who has a permanent disability. An Access Pass may also provide discounts for expanded amenities like camping, guided tours etc. For more information visit USGS Store - Access Pass.

What if I have a current Interagency Military Pass or other type of Interagency Pass?

If you have a Military Pass, Access Pass, or one of the other Interagency Passes, you can simply use that pass for free access.

If you have recently purchased an Interagency Annual or Senior Pass, unfortunately no refunds are permitted.

Veterans and Gold Star Family free access vouchers and Interagency Passes are non-transferable.

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Last updated: January 19, 2022