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.

Beginning on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020, Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans receive free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests. The free access program is a way to thank America’s veterans and Gold Star families 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?

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced a Secretarial Order on October 28, 2020, granting Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other sites managed by the Department of the Interior commencing on Veterans Day. Lands and waters managed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are also participating in the program.

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

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 U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification when entering a national park:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)

  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

  • Veteran ID Card

  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. 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 United States 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 United States Armed Forces.

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 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 National Park Service entrance fees. It also waives entrance or standard amenity fees for other participating Department of the Interior agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers:

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 where entrance fees are collected:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)

  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

  • Veteran ID Card

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

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

Before visiting a national park site, Gold Star Family members download and print a voucher to present to the ranger or place on the vehicle dashboard at unstaffed sites. 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.

How long will free access be available?

Free access for veterans and Gold Star Families will continue indefinitely, unless the Secretarial Order is amended, superseded, or revoked.

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 Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

Fees still apply for expanded amenities such as camping, tours, and special recreation permits and for organized groups or concession-operated facilities or activities.

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 at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

What is not covered by the free access program?

The program does not cover expanded amenity fees such as camping, tours, special recreation permits, or organized groups or concession-operated facilities or activities.

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

Current members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents can enter national parks for free with a Military Pass through the America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program.

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 U.S. 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.