National Park Annual Pass: Not Always a Scam

Back in 2012, I wrote a blog post called National Park Annual Pass: Kind of a Scam. To make a long story short, my spouse and I had been on a road trip and had bought the national park annual pass (the America the Beautiful pass as it’s officially known) since we’d be hitting a bunch of national parks, only to find that the national parks we hit had ways around the pass, such as charging a parking fee or a tour fee instead of an entrance fee.

I was grumpy at the time. I don’t actually know that we ever made our money back on that one.

Well, I am happy to report that sometimes it is worth it. As of today, the America the Beautiful pass is $80. We’re just home from a two-week road trip of eastern Utah, western Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and, once again, we bought the pass.

But this time it was worth it.

We’re already ahead just from the trip, so if we hit any more national whatevers in the next year, we’re only getting a better deal.

We hit Dinosaur National Monument ($25), the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone ($50), and Glacier ($25). So there’s $100 of entrance fees for $80. Woo!

(We also went to Fossil Butte National Monument, a fairly new monument in southwestern Wyoming, which was quite nice, but also free, so…)

So, between the two trips and our experiences with the park pass, here would be my recommendations:

  • Check your parks’ fees before you go (entrance fees are covered; nothing else will be)
  • Make sure the parks’ fees are worth the expense (if you’re doing a bunch that have entrance fees in the $3-$10 range, you might not get your money’s worth)
  • Think about whether you will have the opportunity to use the pass again later in the year (local national parks or monuments, or another trip–I can think of two more we’ll probably hit, one of which is free, but the other is $25 or $35 depending on if you’re going in for 1 or more days)

Also I had never been to Glacier before, and it is very nice, though the Going-to-the-Sun road was not open (they opened it this past Saturday, five days after we left, those jerks). I saw a moose! No one else is excited by the moose, but I had never seen one in real life before and now I have.

(Lots of wildlife. We saw a ton of bison, a couple of elks–including one licking a table in our campground, some deer, a bear and its cub fishing in the river, some herons, a marmot, a lot of ground squirrels, and way way way too many mosquitoes.)

Drawing of bear

We’ll jump back into Writing Around Life on Friday, provided I haven’t died of exhaustion. Or the heat.

Thoughts on national parks, squiders? Been to Yellowstone or Glacier? Because they were amazing and totally lived up to the hype. Except for the mosquitoes.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dennarahl on 2018/06/27 at 9:58 AM

    We were just in Yellowstone last week too! We made use of the 4th graded pass and got in free. I’d like to go back again, it was so awesome.

    Reply

    • How funny that you guys were there too! We stayed in the Bridge Bay campground, which was decent enough. Yellowstone itself was pretty awesome, though, man, the crowds at some of the stops.

      Reply

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