The access pass is a lifetime pass, formerly known as the Golden Access Passport, that provides access to recreation areas managed by five federal agencies. It also provides the pass owner a discount on some amenity fees such as camping. The Access Pass is free, and it is valid for the lifetime of the pass owner. Golden Access Passports obtained prior to the 2007 name-change also share this lifetime validity.
The pass may be issued to US citizens or permanent residents that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activities. A permanent disability is a permanent physical, mental, or sensory impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. The disability requirements for the Access Pass are not based on a percentage of disability. To qualify for the pass, the disability must be permanent and limit one or more major life activities.
The Access Pass is free and can be obtained in person at one of these federal recreation sites, through the mail following the instructions on the National Park Service website, or ordered online via the US Geological Survey website. Note that if you order your pass through the mail or online, you will have to pay a $10 service fee.
Qualifying for the Access Pass
To prove a permanent disability, some examples of acceptable documentation include:
- Statement by a licensed physician
- Document issued by federal agency such as the Veteran's Administration, Social Security Disability Income, or Supplemental Security Income
- Document issued by a state agency such as a vocational rehabilitation agency
Children with permanent disabilities can also qualify for an Access Pass, which will also allow caregivers to enter the federal recreation sites for free when accompanying the child. Photo identification will be requested to verify pass ownership.
If you forget your pass at home, you can either obtain another Access Pass with proper documentation or pay the standard fee.
What the Access Pass Covers
The Access Pass admits pass owners and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas. Where per-person fees are charged, it admits the pass's owner and up to three adults. Children under 16 are always admitted for free. If your group is spread across two vehicles, the Access Pass will only count towards one vehicle. The second vehicle is subject to an entrance fee or must have (or buy) a second pass.
You can use your pass at sites operated by the Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation, whenever entrance or standard amenity fees are charged. The Access Pass is valid only at participating federal recreation sites, and not valid at state parks or local city and county recreation sites. In addition, some parks, like the Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Valley Authority may honor the Access Pass, might honor the pass even if they are not a part of one of the above organizations. When in doubt, call ahead to the site you plan to visit and inquire about pass acceptance.
Access Pass Discounts
At many sites the Access Pass provides the pass owner a discount on expanded amenity fees, such as camping, swimming, boat launching, and guided tours.
The pass program is managed by five federal agencies that operate under different regulations and have different fees. Therefore, the discount program for the Access Pass is not handled in the same way on all federal recreation lands. The best advice is to always inquire locally.
In general, discounts are honored as follows:
- Individual Campsites: The discount only applies to the fee for the campsite physically occupied by the pass owner, not to any additional campsites occupied by members of the pass owner's party.
- Campsites with Utility Hookups: If utility fees are charged separately, there is no discount. The discount may apply if the utility fee is combined (seamless) with the campsite fee.
- Group Campsites and Facilities (including, but not limited to, group facilities, picnic areas, or pavilions): There is no discount for group campsites and other group facilities that charge a flat fee. If the group campsite has a per person fee rate, only the pass owner receives a discount; others using the site pay the full fee.
- Guided Tours: The pass offers discounts on some guided tours. Only the pass owner receives a discount if one is offered.
The Access Pass does not cover discounts in on-site bookstores or gift stores located in federal recreation sites.