America the Beautiful Pass

This all-access ticket to the national parks is always a great buy.

We’re always on the lookout for a good bargain, and this might be the best of them all: $80 for a year’s worth of unlimited visits to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, from national parks to national wildlife refuges. An early version, the “Golden Eagle Passport,” surfaced in 1965, but the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, passed in December of 2004, created the pass that nearly all BACKPACKER staffers have in their pockets today. And it’s not just us who love it: In the past ten years, the National Park Service has issued an average of 351,900 passes each year.

“This fall, I used my park pass to show my Boston-based family around Rocky Mountain National Park,” one editor says. “Watching their faces as they took in alpine sunrises and ogled herds of bugling elk was priceless.”

With some park fees now topping $30 per day, it’s easy to recoup your cost with just a few visits. Our staffers use theirs dozens of times a year; an investment that keeps on giving.

Though we dream of a digital version to store passes and permits, plan our whole park vacation, and—yes—skip entry station lines, we’re here to celebrate what it is right now: An unlimited ticket to spend gobs of time in some of the world’s finest backcountry. $80