How to Get a New York State Parks Empire Pass

Glorious sky over the ocean at Robert Moses Beach New York State Park

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/Getty Images

If you love driving in Long Island and other parts of New York State, you can save money by purchasing a New York State Empire Pass, formerly known as an Empire Passport, to access parks, beaches, and forest preserves. If you are a frequent park user, this pass lets you 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 vehicle. 

The Empire Pass Card

You'll get a wallet-size Empire Pass card that can be shared within a household or extended family rather than a window sticker for your vehicle, as in the past. The card is a family-friendly alternative to the previous decal for vehicle windows, and it's not assigned to a specific vehicle. The wallet-sized card can be used by anyone the cardholder wishes. Decals for vehicles are no longer available.

The state provides detailed use guidelines for Empire Pass Cards. 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, multi-year, or lifetime. Fees change, so you should check the website for current prices when you order your pass. 

Annual and Multi-Year

To buy an annual or multi-year pass you can:

  • Order online
  • Order by phone: Credit card orders can be processed by any NYS Parks regional office or by calling 518-474-0458 during normal business hours
  • Order by mail: Complete an application with a check or money order (do not send cash) made payable to "NYS Parks." Send to:Empire Pass
    • New York State Parks
    • Albany, NY 12238

Lifetime 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, non-driver ID, or learner permit, eliminating the need for a separate card. For a one-time fee, it provides an even greater discount for day-use vehicle entry than the annual or multi-year Empire Pass, with all the same benefits. There is no expiration date; buy it once and enjoy the parks forever. If you move out of New York or you are not a New York state resident, you can still buy a lifetime Empire Pass. You must get a non-driver New York state ID card from the state Department of Motor Vehicles to have the lifetime pass. You can apply online for a lifetime Empire Pass.

'I Love NY Parks' License Plates

New York State 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.

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