The Department of the Interior has announced that U.S. military veterans and the immediate family members of those who have fallen in service will be granted fee-free access to America’s National Parks and other fee-charging federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior. The change will begin on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) this year.

“With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veteran’s Day and every single day thereafter.” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

Entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation sites will be waived for veterans and Gold Star Families at approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands.

Separately, the Department of the Interior announced the 5th graders in the current school year will be able to take part in the “Every Kid Outdoors” program, which is intended for 4th graders. The temporary change is intended to allow students to go to parks that couldn’t as 4th graders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of the Interior does not manage the U.S. Forest Service lands–they fall under the Department of Agriculture, and have not announced a similar veteran policy change. So for the time being, veterans will not be able to get an interagency annual pass card, as is offered to active duty military and their families for free each year. There are few if any national forest sites with an entrance fee.

For purposes of this program, a veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

Gold Star Family members will be able to enter by simply stating their status, and will be taken at their word. Veterans will not receive a discount on tours, camping, permits, or other fees.

4th and 5th graders can fill out a form to gain admission through the Every Kid Outdoors program. Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.