America the Beautiful!
Fellow Active Duty Service members and dependents, if you haven’t heard about the National Park Service’s FREE Annual Military Pass, then read on. As of May 19th, 2012, the National Park Service started giving free America the Beautiful passes to active military members and their dependents. Not only does this include admission for you, but the occupants of your vehicle or the pass holder or you plus three other adults. Annual passes usually cost 80 dollars.
You may not know this, but visitors to national parks usually pay to enter a national park. For example, it costs 25 dollars to enter the Grand Canyon National Park in a vehicle. All you need to do is present your CAC card or military dependent ID to get an annual pass. I went to my local ranger station and did it in about 5 minutes. This is definitely worth your time,and I can honestly say that the Park Rangers I’ve met love to see the military out in their parks. I recommend calling ahead to ensure that the ranger station you are going to visit isn’t out of military passes. I’ve heard they go rather quickly around military installations.
If you haven’t visited a national park, pack up your family and go visit one! A great way to save some serious money during summer block leave is to go to MWR, rent some camping gear, and take the family out into a National Park. Keep in mind that the “big name” parks, Yosemite and Yellowstone, to name a couple usually fill up in advance. However, National Forests rarely do. As an added bonus, a lot of National Forests will let you take Rover and maybe even build a campfire while there are greater restrictions at National Parks.
Another interesting item you may want to consider purchasing is a National Parks “passport”. Inside of every ranger station and visitor’s center in each of National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and Memorials there is usually a stamp for that area with the day’s date. You can stamp a “cancellation” of that park in the passport which is organized by region. These things are so cool I’ve convinced a few of my friends to buy them as well. The passport is a great way for your family to keep track of all the great national parks that you’ve visited.