A Guide to Getting an Empire Pass to New York's State Parks

Get an Empire Pass, an all-access pass to state parks and forest preserves

Central Park with Manhattan skyline, New York City, USA
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If you love driving in Long Island and other parts of New York, you can save money by purchasing a New York State Empire Pass, formerly known as an Empire Passport. If you are a frequent park user, you can pay a cost-saving flat fee rather than paying each time you go, which can really add up.

Each pass is essentially an unlimited day pass for vehicular access to most of New York State's 180 state parks and more than 55 Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Preserve areas.

You'll also be given access to most boat launch sites, arboretums, seashores, and park preserves. The state provides a detailed list of where the Empire Pass is accepted.

If you hold an Empire Pass, you may bring as many friends or family members as you wish in your car or other passenger vehicle.

The Empire Pass Card

As of 2017, a wallet-size Empire Pass card that can be shared within a household is available. The card is a family-friendly alternative to the usual decal that goes on vehicle windows, and it's not assigned to a specific vehicle. The wallet-sized card can be used by anyone the cardholder wishes.

If you prefer a decal, the state requires that the Empire Pass decal be permanently attached to the driver's side window in the front or rear of the car, on the left side of motorcycles, or inside the hull of a boat. 

Whether you get a card for your wallet or a decal for your vehicle, the Empire Pass uniformly gives the user unlimited day-use vehicular entry to most facilities operated by New York State Parks and the State Department of Environmental Conservation, including forests, beaches, trails, and more.

 

The state provides detailed use guidelines for Empire Pass Cards and Empire Pass Decals. And it provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions about pass replacement, volume sales, and other key information.

Empire Passes are available for different periods of time: one year, multiyear, or lifetime.

 Current fees for each type of pass are available on the Empire Pass website.

Annual Empire Pass

Annual Empire Pass Card: A wallet-size card that can be shared within a household and not assigned to a specific vehicle.

Annual Empire Pass Decal: Available for less than a card, the decal is affixed to a vehicle and is nontransferable.

To purchase:

Multiyear Empire Pass Card

Frequent Empire Pass Card purchasers may want a multiyear Empire Pass card, which can be bought online, by phone, or by mail. Upon purchase, you will be mailed an Empire Pass card. You do not need to contact a Parks office unless your address has changed. If it has, complete the Change of Address form.

  • OnlineOrder online.
  • Order by phone: Telephone orders using a credit card will be processed by calling 518-474-0458 during normal business hours.
  • Order by mail: Complete and mail an application with a check or money order payable to "NYS Parks" to:

    Empire Pass
    New York State Parks
    Albany, NY 12238

Lifetime Empire Pass

The Lifetime Empire Pass is a convenient option for frequent Empire Pass users. The Lifetime Empire Pass is issued by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles as an icon that appears on the New York State driver license, nondriver ID, or learner's permit, eliminating the need for a separate document. For a one-time fee, it provides an even greater discount for day-use vehicle entry than the annual or multiyear Empire Pass, with all the same benefits. There is no expiration date; buy it once and enjoy the parks forever.

As a special one-time bonus, anyone purchasing a Lifetime Empire Pass can choose to receive a free $100 State Park Gift Card with their order. The gift card can be used at more than 9,000 campsites, cabins, and cottages throughout the state and at select state golf courses. Gift cards have no expiration date. If you prefer not to receive the gift card, just choose "No thanks" during the ordering process.

'I Love NY Parks' License Plates

Parks has teamed up with the Department of Motor Vehicles to offer three "I Love NY Parks" license plate designs. One set (front and back) of these license plates is available free to Lifetime Pass holders. The plates are also for sale to single-year and multiyear Empire Pass holders. To learn more, visit NYS Department of Motor Vehicles.