America The Beautiful: 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy A National Parks Pass

By: Bret Bechis
March 10, 2016

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John Muir famously said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” US leaders soon memorialized the same in 1872 by founding Yellowstone National Park, the country and the world’s first such designation, with Sequoia, Yosemite, Mt. Rainier and Crater Lake National Parks founded shortly thereafter between 1890-1902. The parks were founded around a common belief in the importance of leaving the country’s greatest natural national treasures, untouched, simply as they were. In designating the Grand Canyon as a national monument, President Roosevelt summed up the sentiment best: “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

With Spring fast approaching, it’s not too early to start thinking about getting out to the mountains, canyons, lakes, deserts, and coasts that have been protected for more over 100 years now. Not to mention some of the country’s most historic sites and monuments which now make up the National Park System as well. Here are five reasons why you should buy your America The Beautiful Pass this year:

Explore Lower Grand Canyon Falls, Yellowstone NP | Photo: Josh Packer

1. It’s cheap!

A National Park Season Pass is only $80, for the entire year! That is the cheapest outdoor playground-museum-adventure pass that money can buy, and gives unlimited access to over 400 different parks, sites, and monuments around the country for an entire year. Talk about value!

2. Build your own scavenger hunt and go park hopping.

With a US map and a little creative planning, a single National Park trip can easily turn into a single multi-National Park scavenger hunt, which may transform the way you move around the country altogether. Try opening Google Maps, zooming out to a country view and searching for “national park.” Pins will pop up all over the country, forming regional constellations to navigate. Among others, one particularly magical route lies between Las Vegas and Denver, where at least six national parks are on the beaten track – Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Rocky Mountain National Parks – across four states. Aside from featuring some of the country’s deepest canyons and tallest mountains, the route will inspire you to look at the US map in a different way altogether.

Alternatively, build a national park scavenger hunt around your friends, family, and work trips. The odds are there’s a national park nearby you or any destinations you’re traveling to this year (not everyone knows how close they are to a national park) – a season pass keeps them top of mind whenever you’re on the go, for a quick duck-in or weekend stopover.

Happy mapping!

Hike to Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah NP | Photo: Sarah Giek

3. Make new friends.

Some of the longest lasting relationships are born out of travels and moments of wonder and appreciation. National parks inspire both for millions of others per year from around the world, and there’s a good chance you’ll meet kindred spirits on the trail, beneath a memorial, or camping under the stars. There’s an even better chance than you think that you’ll meet the same people at different parks over the years. Come with an open mind and an open heart and you may just meet some lifelong friends.

4. Learn a history lesson.

Every national park has a visitor center, and every visitor center has countless lessons to learn about the area’s history, wildlife, patrons and stewards. Couple these lessons with your own explorations and immerse yourself in US and geographic history and the landscapes, people, and social undertakings that have shaped it.

Hike to Tall Trees Grove, Redwood NP | Photo: Brian Fulda

5. Celebrate 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service

The biggest reason to get a pass this year, is to celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service to conserve the parks and ensure they remain “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." An executive order in 1933 transferred dozens of national monuments from the Forest Service and the War Department to the National Park Service, broadening the National Park System to include landmarks of scenic, scientific, and historical importance. Today, the National Parks support 20,000 employees and the National Park System comprises more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands.
Whether you go wild, go historic, or to a famous battleground, just be sure to go and help celebrate the Centennial. You’ll surely learn something about the park, the country, and of course, yourself, too!

Hike to Cassidy Arch, Capitol Reef NP | Photo: Nick Oman

Cover photo: Shannon Kalahan

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.