Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands


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Veterans and Gold Star Families will be granted free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other Federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior starting on Veterans Day this year and every day onward.

“With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting Veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation sites will be waived for Veterans and Gold Star Families. They will have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle, from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing and climbing.

Many Department managed lands have direct connections to the American military, such as frontier forts, Cold War sites, battlefields, national cemeteries, and memorials. These special places pay tribute to our veterans and serve as reminders of their courage and sacrifice throughout the history of our nation, from Minuteman National Historic Park where colonists stood in defense of their rights, to Yellowstone National Park, which was protected from vandalism and poaching by the 1st U.S. Cavalry before the National Park Service was established, to Mount Rushmore where modern warriors attend reenlistment ceremonies.

Details on program

For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

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.

The Interagency America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program already includes a free annual pass for active duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.

The Department also offers free entrance days for everyone throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration including the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day, and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.

APPLY FOR A VETERAN ID CARD

APPLY FOR A VETERAN HEALTH IDENTIFICATION CARD (VHIC)

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Tony    

    Thanks everybody for the good info.

  2. Pamela Woods    

    Interested in a Gold Star Family pass… There doesn’t seem to be any information regarding how to obtain one if these passes.

  3. Karen Vian    

    How do Gold Star families get in to the park, etc? I don’t see an application, or ID you need to have? THanks.

  4. Patricia Kitts    

    How do I apply for a pass ? I’m a gold star mom

  5. Tanya Montoya    

    The National Park Service web site (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/veterans-day.htm) only states “The National Park Service invites all visitors to remember our veterans by visiting any National Park Service site for free on Veterans Day (November 11)”. If ‘Veteran’ status for National Park access has changed, it’s not reflected on their web site. They discuss the type of passes to attain access to the national parks at: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm. There is one relevant question (https://store.usgs.gov/faq#US-Military): “Are there any benefits for veterans?” And the answer does not have anything with just showing your ID card. The answer is: “There is not a pass specifically for veterans; however, many veterans qualify for one of the other discount passes offered as part of our pass program.” Therefore, if this is something new, the National Park Service web site doesn’t reflect this new benefit to veterans, which makes me think that if you show up to a National Park with just your Veteran ID card, you probably won’t be allowed in without purchasing entry.

  6. Shaun Young    

    I just wanted to point out some things.
    1. This program gives you access to the National Parks, not the amenities. Camping, RV’ing etc are additional, but with the card, come with a discounted rate.
    2. I obtained my card by visiting my local National Park Service Office. To find the nearest office to you, go to https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
    3. The above site will also give you a list of all of the parks and programs that you are asking questions about.

    As Status Veterans, my wife and I have enjoyed the America the Beautiful program. I am glad they are now offering it to Veterans too. https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm

    For all other questions, a site called Google has some amazing information on it. https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=y5OpX6q8G87z-gTPx6ugBA&q=veterans+to+get+access+to+national+parks&oq=veterans+to+get+access+to+nation&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQARgAMggIIRAWEB0QHjIICCEQFhAdEB46DgguELEDEMcBEKMCEJMCOgsILhCxAxDHARCjAjoICAAQsQMQgwE6BQgAELEDOgIIADoICAAQsQMQyQM6BQgAEJIDOggILhDHARCvAToFCAAQyQM6DgguEMcBEK8BEMkDEJMCOgYIABAWEB46CQgAEMkDEA0QHjoJCAAQyQMQFhAeUOAHWJB1YPyJAWgBcAB4AIABiQGIAbYZkgEFMTguMTWYAQCgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6&sclient=psy-ab

    Make sure to thank the current administration for providing this to you.

    1. GC    

      No need for any card other than what the new program requires
      For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

      Department of Defense Identification Card
      Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
      Veteran ID Card
      Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

  7. Devin hogue    

    Is this for Veterans Day only every year? It’s a little confusing – “every day onward”.

    1. Moo    

      It is not Veterans Day only each year. It is simply, beginning Veterans Day, veterans will have access.

    2. GC    

      The free access begins on Veteran’s Day and will continue to be free access always.

  8. Manny F Ceo    

    I wish i had known sooner about the Moab, Utah bicycle event. I would have gladly booked a ticket on Amtrak to ride in that legendary and beautiful vista and maybe even continued down the Grwat Divide MTB trail.

  9. Brian McAtee    

    I would like to see a link to the national parks that are included in his program please.

    Thank you!

    1. Moo    

      Here is a link to a PDF file containing a list of all the federal recreation sites which take the America the Beautiful passes: https://store.usgs.gov/s3fs-public/PassIssuanceList.pdf — I believe the parks and other areas which are included in this program are the same.

      If you happen to qualify for the lifetime Access Pass (i.e. you are a service-connected disabled veteran), I would still recommend that you apply for that. In addition to granting free access to federal recreation sites, the Access Pass also provides a nice discount on camping fees (50% off normal rates in most cases!), among other things.

      A previous article about the Access Pass is here: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/60590/disabled-veterans-eligible-free-national-park-service-lifetime-access-pass/ — you can apply ahead of time or at the gate at most of the locations listed in the aforementioned PDF.

    2. GC    

      A quick Google search of “National Park Services”provided locations. Use nps.gov for National Park Service locations. I imagine you could search the other institutions in the same manner.
      You can google:
      National Park Service
      U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
      Bureau of Land Management
      Bureau of Reclamation
      Good hunting!

  10. Ronald Bowman    

    Great program. I assume that all passengers in the veteran’s vehicle get in free with the vet, correct?

  11. Allen Johnson    

    Does this cover state parks, also?

    1. Shaun Young    

      I would say no, given some states do not offer any Veteran program for visitors/out of state residents. This program covers all National Parks and is great! Highly recommend checking each state’s state parks/Veterans Programs prior to visiting them.

  12. Mark    

    Okay, I already have my VHIC and it designated on my drivers license.

    Do we need to get this pass or do we just present our ID to these locations? It’s a little vague on if we need a pass?

    So is there a list of the 2,000+ sites wear we are eligible for free admission?

    1. Joel Kurtz    

      I have my veteran’s card and designation on my NC drivers license. What is my next step to get the free passes to the parks? Or do I use my cards?

    2. GC    

      For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

      Department of Defense Identification Card
      Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
      Veteran ID Card
      Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

      A quick Google search of each institution listed provides each institutions locations

  13. James Gillette    

    Its good information. However I’, a gold star family and a veteran. Some of my family that carries the gold star family are not vets. How can they prove information to get the gold star family pass?

    1. Kelli    

      This is my question too. Am I really expected to carry my brother’s death cert with me?

  14. Matt Siwicke    

    You will need to visit this site https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic/ to enroll for the ID. FYI, it requires your DD214 and a recent passport photo to the ID card. Takes about 6-8 weeks to receive.

  15. Jim Cornwall    

    This is a great idea, but like all the other commenters I wish the press release provided more specifics. Given how the current administration operates, however, I doubt if any specifics have been worked out yet.

    Once they are, I hope the VA will post an update laying out precisely what veterans will have to do. Including links to the sites where a vet can apply for a Veteran ID card and so on.

    [Editor: There is no application. The blog above lists what needs to be presented to gain access. Updating links now.]

  16. Thomas Craig Stamps    

    How do I get a pass? Will my medical VA card work if I show at the gate?

    1. Nathan King    

      Yes. Used my VHIC. I tried it at Crater Lake and was just waived through.

    2. Zane Austin    

      These all work.
      Department of Defense Identification Card
      Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
      Veteran ID Card
      Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

      1. Kathleen Hutchison    

        Does this list include Dept of Veteran Affairs employees?

        1. Shaun Young    

          I think the program is only for Veterans, Gold Star families and Active Duty Members

    1. Shaun Young    

      You can get the pass at the National Park Service Offices, you can check locations near you online. The card comes with a placard to hang on your mirror.

  17. Don Danielson    

    Is an admission card issued to veterans for free admission?

    1. Mary Louise Drum    

      Thank you! Finally, a straight answer. I know I qualify for the America The Beautiful Pass. I just needed to know how to get it! The article is very vague. Happy Veteran’s Day my fellow Veterans and God Bless America.

  18. Gerald Niggemann    

    How do I apply to get one of these passes? Where can I find the list of 2000 places to use this pass?

    1. Raymond Denton    

      No, you just need to prove you’re a Veteran. This is how I obtained my ID card – https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic/

  19. Stephen McPheeters    

    I’m a disabled (40%) vet. does my VA health card work for this program, with the parks?

    1. Randolph Saunders    

      According to the article, yes.

  20. Harry Jones    

    In reference to all these questions about “how to sign up”, IDs etc.;
    In my state you can get the VET designation on your drivers license by sending a copy of your DD214 to the DMV. Anyone who is registered with the VA should have a VA ID card and as I read it this would suffice. Just show either one at the entrance to the parks.

    [Editor: This is true for all 50 states.]

  21. Brenda Dreifke    

    Do I need to have a specific form to get the free entrance or can I just show my retired military ID card

    [Editor: This is addressed in the blog.]

  22. Roy T Michelsen    

    How do I get a Veteran ID card?

  23. Johnnie S. Davis    

    do veterans need to fill a form out and mail forms to the national park to verify that they are veterans and will a pass be for a year?

    1. Raymond Denton    

      You just need a Veteran’s ID card – This is where I obtained mine – https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic/

  24. Raymond Jacobus    

    Can I please get a list of the 2000 places that we can access with our VA card please

    1. Rich Cunrod    

      Google America the Beautiful for a list of the places

  25. Travis A Moss    

    If you are a Veteran and you receive medical care from a VA facility then you should have (or can get) a Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) from most of the larger VA facilities. This ID will provide you access, if you are retired, your retired Military ID will provide you access, most States offer to add your Veteran Status on your State Drivers License or State ID, simple contact your local DMV and inquire about this FREE service(DD214 will be required).
    If you need further help obtaining a form of Veteran’s ID contact your local VFW, they should be able to put you in contact with a local Fleet Service Rep for your area. No Fleet does not refer to NAVY only in this case, thats what these Service reps are called, and they can usually help with any Veteran related issues that you may have.
    I hope this info helps

    1. Michael Stu    

      what about the family of the veteran? I have a wife and 2 boys. would they have to pay or can they get in on my card?

  26. Dale Dawson    

    Sounds really good ! Can we make it a little easier to sign up ! I’m tried of jumping threw a hoop to save a buck . If someone really gave a sht this would be easy for us to sign up
    Thank you anyway
    Dale

    [Editor: There is no sign up. You don’t have to apply for a pass. The required IDs are listed in the blog above.]

    1. Raymond Denton    

      You just need a Veteran’s ID card – This is where I obtained mine – https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic/

  27. Reed Child    

    Will the camping facilities within these parks free to veterans?

  28. Mary J Franks    

    How and where are these passes available? I see lots of ?’s here, no answers. Thanks

  29. Tim W.    

    I link or info on where to obtain a pass would be very helpful.

  30. Fredrick H. Schafer    

    How do I get one of these passes?

  31. Fredrick H. Schafer    

    I would like to get one of these passes. How do I get one.

  32. David Hollie    

    Hello, is there a link to show the available parks?

    Thank you,
    David

  33. Jerry L Dimond    

    Department of Defense Identification Card
    Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
    Veteran ID Card
    Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card
    Any of these forms of ID will work.

  34. Andrew Wilbourn    

    I found this for those who are asking about getting a veteran id card, I am in the same boat.

    https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/vic/

  35. Kathleen Ray    

    Nice that we can have access to national parks for free, but you don’t say where to apply

    [Editor: There is no application. Story mentions which IDs are accepted.]

  36. George Martin    

    Is there a single link to see all of the parks and lands we can visit for free? Also, is it necessary to register ahead of time or get a pass out anything, or can we just drive there and show or ID?

  37. Randy Schnader    

    Where do I go to get the list of 2000 places available?

  38. Athens L. Furr Jr.    

    I am so Happy to hear about the free Vets entrance to the wonderful parks we have in this Beautiful Country. I am a Vet that served from 1969-1975
    In The U.S.Army with a Tour in Viet-Nam,
    From “70-71”. Thanks for the information & The help you give to all of the Veterans throughout the world. I will make sure I get my V.A. Medical Card updated, so I may participate.

  39. Steven Horan    

    I’m interested in park passes I am an army vet

    1. Jerry L Dimond    

      Department of Defense Identification Card
      Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
      Veteran ID Card
      Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

  40. Frank    

    The easiest way to show you’re a veteran is to take a copy of your DD214 (or honorable discharge proof) to the license bureau and have an insignia added to your driver’s license. The veteran ID card has a lot more required information.

    1. Jerry L Dimond    

      Department of Defense Identification Card
      Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
      Veteran ID Card
      Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

  41. Michael D Troastle    

    Seems like a nice Program. However the article is poorly written There is NO information or link in it on how or where to apply for this program. More of a tease of what is out there.

    [Editor: This is not a program to apply to. The story states what identification is needed to present at the gates to gain access.]

  42. Mike Cary    

    I went to the USGS site and filled out the information. took about two weeks. Best $10 I ever spent.

    https://store.usgs.gov/access-pass

  43. Cynthia Lotspeich    

    I had a lifetime pass, but unfortunately it was stolen along with my purse. On a day trip to Glacier National Park, I tried to get another, I showed my VA health card and was denied, and denied entrance without fees being paid. I live next to Glacier Park, but rarely go now.

  44. Richard W Francis    

    When and where can we apply for this pass?

    [Editor: This is not a program to apply to. The story states what ID is necessary to present at the gates to gain access.]

  45. Lisa Wasser    

    Would this include campgrounds/facilities on Corps of Engineer lands?

    1. Jerry Schwach    

      When you find out please let me know

  46. Matthew Leonard    

    For those interested in free full hookup camping Oregon’s benefits are best!
    https://stateparks.oregon.gov/?do=v.page&id=19

  47. Carole Galambos    

    How do you get a Veteran ID Card? What are the requirements?
    If I am receiving a Disability Check every month do I qualify? Do I have to be a 100% disabled?

  48. Tim Thompson    

    I am a service-connected disabled veteran. I purchase a Pass for the boat parking lot at Grove Marina in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Will this Pass be free from veteran’s day forward?

  49. John H Harris    

    Does this mean I can go camping on federal Parks that have camping in the parks if not how do I get the pass,. Thanks

  50. Mike speciale    

    I’m still unsure of the veterans urgent care program. In the Phoenix area where can we go for urgent care? How does the program work

  51. Ronald Miller    

    Are disabled veterans fishing licenses free in NY State?

    1. Robert E Kelsey Jr    

      Hello,
      I’m a veteran and my fishing license as well sporting license is $5.00 per year, now listen the veteran needs to be 50% or higher to receive the $5.00 licenses .

  52. Kenneth W Plaster    

    How do I get the free pass I am a Vietnam veteran

    1. Christopher Eggleston    

      Just show your Veteran ID card or your drivers license with Vet status on it.

  53. Marvin Batcher    

    How do I get a Veterans I D badge to show and take advantage of Veterans programs

    1. BRYAN KUCHAK    

      The easiest way would be to take your DD214 to the drivers license division of your state and get the the Veterans designator on your drivers license. You can also go to a VA hospital and see if you qualify for a VA health card.

  54. Marcus lane atkins    

    Where can I get a veteran ID card

    1. Dennis Geiger    

      I got the Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card when I renewed my Illinois drivers license.

    2. Velicia Story    

      You can call a veterans service officer in your county, you can call 211, or go to the nearest va hospital. I took my picture at the VA hospital I first spoke with the front desk then eligibility and then got my veterans healthcare ID. How that helps. ☺️

    3. Dennis Thomas    

      How can I get a veteran ID ?
      How can I file for COVID impact ?

    4. Dennis Thomas    

      How can I get a veteran ID ?
      How can I file for economic impact claim ?

  55. Michelle S    

    I think you mean Civil War sites, not Cold War sites…

    1. Bucky Kanker    

      There were no Minuteman Missiles during the Civil War. Cold War is accurate.

    2. Uncle Sam    

      Manhattan Project National Park is an example of a a Cold War Site (Actually consists of three sites, but who’s counting.)

    3. Larry Smith    

      Check out this VA site where you can apply for a veterans ID card.

      https://www.va.gov/records/get-veteran-id-cards/

  56. Jason Timm    

    Is there a single link to see all of the parks and lands we can visit for free? Also, is it necessary to register ahead of time or get a pass out anything, or can we just drive there and show or ID?

    1. David Gentile    

      We drove to Montezuma’s Castle Monument in Arizona, i showed my VA health card/disabled veteran ID and they let us in @no cost. did not have to sign up, just show that ID card from the VA. If you retired, your Retired ID card works, aside from that, they Accept a DD214 according to the Park Ranger i spoke with.

  57. John M Strauss    

    How does a Disabled Vetran (100%), apply for access to subject events and properties…?

    Many Thanks,
    John Strauss

    1. Matthew Leonard    

      Do a google search for disabled access pass. You should find info on how to submit a copy of your VA disability letter to get the card that never expires. Or see if your state DL/ID card has veteran on it.

    2. Del    

      John I did a quick google search for you and found the application you can fill out.

      This website was specific to DISABLED VETERANS.
      https://www.wearethemighty.com/veterans/disabled-veterans-free-national-park/ that has a link to the DISABLED VETERANS pass.
      https://store.usgs.gov/s3fs-public/access_pass_application.pdf

      Thank you for your service. Hope this helps.

    3. Andrew Marquis    

      John,

      Here is a link to information. I used to just present my ID for an annual pass every year, but now that I am retired with a VA Disability, I will be doing this soon. All you need is to bring your VA paperwork to any National Park.
      https://www.military.com/militaryadvantage/2018/04/06/got-va-rating-you-can-get-free-lifetime-national-parks-pass.html#:~:text=An%20entrance%20station%20at%20Grand%20Teton%20National%20Park%2C,areas%2C%20as%20well%20as%20discounts%20on%20some%20fees.

  58. Brenda Wood Fields    

    Is the military ID cards our access pass or do we apply for a membership pass? And if so, where? Thank you!

  59. William Coulter    

    Do I need to sign up for free admission? I am a service-connected disabled veteran. What about over night stays? Camping?

    1. Dick Kasnick    

      You can get a VHIC Card that has on the face “Service Connected”, and that pass allows you access to all MWR programs the same as if you were active duty. Look up MWR on google and it explains the program. Lots of good deals on it, cabins, camping, etc.

  60. Rosemary Yull    

    How about widows of disabled veterans? Thanks

  61. Edward A Cunningham    

    This is a great program. How to apply to get one of these passes? Where can I find the list of 2000 places to use this pass?

    1. Kay Roberts    

      I also would like to know if widows of disabled veterans qualify for a program such as this if they are NOT in the Gold Star Fanily category. My husband was a Korean War veteran but passed away from natural causes in 2019.

      1. Julie Grandgenett    

        I am also a new widow. My husband was 100% disabled with Agent Orange exposure. Do I get military ID? Am I eligible for this park pass? I live in Oregon.
        Thank you

    2. James Lundquist    

      This is a great program. How to apply to get one of these passes? Where can I find the list of 2000 places to use this pass?

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