Golden Age Passports for Camping

by Jennifer Alyson
The federal Senior Pass earns seniors discounts on entrance and camping fees at national parks.

The federal Senior Pass earns seniors discounts on entrance and camping fees at national parks.

Outdoorsy seniors on a budget can enjoy the nation’s purple mountain majesties for a one-time fee. The 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act created the Golden Age Passport, which was replaced three years later by the Senior Pass. The pass grants unlimited entry to federally operated recreation spots. It is also a way to give back: All of the proceeds from the $10 pass goes toward improving visitor services at national parks.

Golden Age Passport

The Golden Age Passport gave holders ages 62 and older lifetime free access to more than 2,000 U.S. recreation sites belonging to the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the bureaus of Land Management and Reclamation. Included are national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Great Smoky Mountains. Golden Age Passport holders can continue to use the passport and receive all of the benefits of the Senior Pass.

Senior Pass

The Senior Pass launched in 2007 with the same terms and conditions as the Golden Age Passport. It’s available to anyone 62 and up. The cost is $10 if you buy it on-site; an additional $10 processing fee applies if you order through the mail or online. The Senior Pass is good for a lifetime. In addition to granting free park access, the pass qualifies holders for discounts on fees for some campgrounds, picnic areas, swimming, boat launching and guided tours. Some parks also offer holders lower rates on shuttle transportation and special-use permits, but the Senior Pass does not earn discounts inside visitor-center gift shops.

How They Work

To use your Golden Age Passport or Senior Pass, show the card to an attendant at the park entrance, and hang the pass from your car’s rearview mirror at your campsite. You’ll need to show your photo ID to verify that you own the pass. You can bring up to three camping companions in your car for free. The passes are not transferable.

Buying a Pass

You can exchange your Golden Age Passport for a Senior Pass for no charge. If you lose your passport, you will have to buy a Senior Pass. Buy a Senior Pass at most recreation spots managed through the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service and the bureaus of Land Management and Reclamation. In addition to meeting the age requirements, you must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and you’ll need to prove your identity with a driver’s license, green card, U.S. passport or birth certificate.

Photo Credits

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