Parks passes a great senior benefit

Published 9:45 pm Tuesday, March 7, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

Two things we have looked forward to in our retirement are free time to travel and, of course, getting into nature as much as possible.

One of the benefits we have discovered as senior travelers who also love the great outdoors is our America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass (formerly Golden Age Passport).

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The Senior Pass is a lifetime entry pass to U.S. National Parks for those of us 62 or better. It covers entrance fees and standard daily use fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per-vehicle areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 and under are free.

If you like travel and nature, we promise it is the best $10 you will ever spend, and all you have to do is show up at a National Park Service facility that charges an entry fee and show them proof of your age and U.S. citizenship.

Now that the Great Dismal Swamp will be charging an access fee of $5 per vehicle visiting the wildlife refuge from the Railroad Ditch entrance to Lake Drummond, the America the Beautiful Senior Pass is even more beautiful, as you will not have to pay the new fee.

The last time we were there, GDS did not sell the senior passes, as they do not charge an entry fee for the entire refuge. The closest places we know to purchase one are Historic Jamestown or the Yorktown National Battlefield. You can download a pass application from and do it through the mail, but it will cost you $10 for the pass and an extra $10 for processing.

Just show up. There’s no application to fill out, and a friendly park representative will verify that you are 62 or older and a U.S. citizen and then hand you a pass.

While you are at it, here is another fun thing to do: Get your grandchildren the Kids Passport, which supports Junior Ranger activities.

The “Passports” are fun guidebooks that help you to discover more about national parks near your home and across America. They describe all the National Lands, region by region, and list every park in every state.

The guidebook gives you quick information and lists places you would never think of visiting, along with lots that are probably on your bucket list, like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, George Washington’s Birthplace, Skyline Drive and more.

All proceeds support the National Parks.

The official National Park System Map and Guide is included to provide detailed information about Park Service site facilities, from International Historic Sites to Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The National Park Service administers many of the long-distance trails forming the National Trails System, including National Scenic Trails and National Historic Trails.

When you visit a national park or a national monument or wildlife refuge like our Great Dismal Swamp, you go to a station at the visitors’ center, where they have stamp pads and official cancellation stamps available, and then you can stamp your passport with a beautiful logo that shows the location and date of your visit.

It is a great way to document places you have been and a wonderful activity in which to engage the young and the young-at-heart in appreciating the beauty of our nation.

So, show up seniors, and get in on a bargain that’s fun and adventure for life.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at