Where I used my NPS annual pass this year

Around this time every year I purchase a new “Interagency Annual Pass.”  The pass costs $80 and covers entrance fees at sites run by the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the National Park Service.

Of course I end up using my pass mostly at national parks, and usually refer to the pass as such (“NPS pass” sounds “kewl” while “Interagency Annual Pass” sounds like some badge used to gain access to the office cafeteria).  Officially the program is “America the Beautiful – the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.”

Here’s a tally of places where my entrance fee was covered this year (from August 2010 to August 2011):

  • Wilson’s Creek – $10.
  • Pea Ridge – $10.
  • Shenandoah / Blue Ridge Parkway – four visits at $10 each.
  • Colonial National Historic Park (Yorktown) – $10.
  • Manassas – eight visits at $3 each.
  • Harpers Ferry – six visits at $6 each.
  • Antietam – two visits at $6 each.
  • Fort Pulaski – $5
  • Castillo de San Marcos – $18 (three adult passes).

I may have missed a few visits in the list.  But at a minimum the pass covered $165 worth of entrance fees.  Can’t beat a 200% return on an investment these days.  But as my wife is quick to point out, I end up blowing that “savings” in the park bookstore every single time!

Of course many (if not most) of the national parks have no entrance fee.  For those that do collect, 80% of the fees go to maintenance projects in the park where the fees were collected.  The other 20% goes to a larger fund for parks where fees are not collected.  It is my understanding that the money collected from the annual passes (such as the one I purchase) goes into that fund distributed to parks without entrance fees.

I figure with the sesquicentennial continuing over the next few years, the park pass will continue to pay for itself.  And that’s why I recommend these passes to others.  Nothing says “I’m a history geek who likes the great outdoors” better than an annual park pass!