Military families can score a free National Parks American the Beautiful pass as part of a Joining Forces partnership with the Interior Department, the White House announced yesterday.
I know this may not make some of you jump up and down, but you should've heard my husband when I shouted this news to him from my desk across the house. He started clapping. And I can't be sure because I couldn't see him, but he might have shed tears of joy.
Our family loves the National Parks. Our cross-country PCSes are a big National Parks fest. On our trip from Washington State to Georgia we stopped in every National Park, monument, forest or recreation area within a reasonable distance of our path. Craters of the Moon National Monument, Badlands, Rushmore, Yellowstone, Tetons, Blackhills ... on and on.
And now that we can get in free? Yeah, we're happy.
Here are the details: the pass is available starting May 19 and is good for one year from the time you get it. It is available to any active duty, Guard or Reserve military ID holder (sorry -- not available for retirees). The pass, available for actual purchase by the rest of the world, gets the holder and the other people in his or her vehicle into over 2,000 federal park lands.
If you are going to be traveling without your servicemember, make sure to get a pass in your name as well since the pass holder must be present for it to be used.
When the year is up you can present your military ID again and get a new one. Officials did not indicate that this would be a one-time program.
The America the Beautiful pass is not available for purchase at all of the parks that take it -- but it is available at a boat load of them. You can see the full list here. It is accepted at all facilities run by the National Park Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. While you can buy the pass online, in order to get a free one you need to show up at one of the locations that sells them (again -- that list is available here.)
You can check out the rest of the frequently asked questions about the pass at the National Park's site here. Remember: just ignore any of the information about costs ... this is 100 percent free for military families.