Posted: November 11, 2020
Beginning Veterans Day, November 11, 2020, all Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans will receive free access to our National Parks. This also applies to more than 2,000 other federal recreation areas. This is amazing news for all who have served and makes access to our beautiful National Parks even easier!
Signed on October 28, 2020, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, enacted by Secretarial Order the new plan. The entrance fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits or special tours.
Those eligible for the program include the following:
- Any individual who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves. Proper identification will be required.
- 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.
Other than entrance fees for the National Park Service, it also waives entrance or standard amenity fees for the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
How do you gain access using this new program?
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
For Gold Star Families:
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.
As of this moment, the free passes will be available for all veterans and Gold Star Families indefinitely.
The likelihood of any administration changing this new program is highly doubtful. This program makes it easier for our veterans and their families to travel to various amazing places. Discovering our parks is an added bonus to the many things our country offers to our veterans and families for their service.
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.
For more information about this new program, please visit the National Park Service’s page here.
To learn more about our National Parks and which ones are near you, visit our U.S. National Parks Page.
Thank you to all our veterans and their families for your sacrifice and service!
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