As the summer hits full swing in the United States, over 2,000 federal recreation sites open up to the masses. Many of these National Parks and Monuments are inaccessible during the winter, meaning travelers who wish to capitalize on the season need to choose their destinations wisely. Admittedly, road trips aren't as affordable as they once were thanks to rising gas prices, but for those eager to load up the station wagon (or the Prius) and visit a variety of parks, the America The Beautiful pass could prove a worthwhile investment.
At $80, this pass is valid for a full year from the time that you purchase it (in fact, I'd recommend purchasing it at the start of a new month, resulting in a theoretical usage period of nearly 13 months.) If you're planning to visit just one park this year, it's not worthwhile, but for the right crowd, it represents an outstanding value. Here's a breakdown...
A conventional road trip spanning the south of Utah can take travelers through Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks in just a few days. Assuming you're traveling via automobile, you're looking at entry fees of $25, $25, $5, $10, or $10 (per vehicle, per park, respectively). In just a week, you'll pay $75 in admissions. In that light, it makes more sense to front $80 on a pass that covers entries for an entire year.
America's most famous parks are the most expensive, with Yosemite ($20), Yellowstone ($25), and Grand Canyon ($25) each accounting for at least one-fourth of the cost of an annual pass. But the America the Beautiful pass encourages you to visit smaller parks that you might have avoided due to cost. There aren't too many activities left in America that an entire family can enjoy for a full year for $80, and the summer is the ideal time to take advantage.
Other lesser-known options include free annual passes for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities as well as U.S. military members and their families. The five agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program are: National Park Service; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Bureau of Land Management; Bureau of Reclamation.
Have any other money-saving tips when it comes to exploring America? Let us know in the comments section!