Even though prices for the senior passes is jumping 8 times over the old price, Pauline Frommer, editorial director for Frommers.com, doesn’t believe park attendance will be affected.
“It is a shocker to increase 700 percent. You don’t usually see those types of increases so it’s a real shame,” Frommer said. “But I don’t think this will affect National Parks. Visitation numbers have been incredibly high for the Park Service and a large percentage of visitors are from overseas.”
The legislation mandating the price hike also includes a new payment plan to help seniors get a lifetime pass. For the first time, the National Park Service will issue an annual senior pass for $20 and once four annual senior passes have been purchased, the individual will automatically qualify for a senior lifetime pass with no additional fee.
The $80 price point still makes senior passes a steal, said Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service.
“Going to one park, such as iconic parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, or Grand Canyon could cost $30 and going to all three could cost up to $90,” Kupper said. “Senior lifetime passes also have the additional benefit of having everyone in their car admitted for free.”
The National Park Service distributed about 662,000 senior passes in fiscal year 2016, Kupper said. The most visited parks are Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia.
You can register for senior passes online, by mail, or by any park site issuing passes. While the National Park Service will still be issuing passes at the old price until Aug. 28, Kupper recommends purchasing yours at a physical park site as the quickest way to start exploring.