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Vets & Gold Star families can get free lifetime nat'l park & forest passes as of Veterans Day

Vets & Gold Star families can get free lifetime nat'l park & forest passes as of Veterans Day

Alexander Lofgren Veterans in the Parks Act takes effect

  • Courtesy of Raúl Grijalva

Veterans and Gold Star families can now obtain free lifetime passes to federal recreational lands, including national parks and forests, after a law passed last December came into effect on Veterans Day.

The passes provide access to more than 2,000 sites spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands controlled by federal land agencies, including those of the National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, National Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation.

President Joe Biden signed a package of laws in December 2021 that included the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in the Parks Act, named after a former staffer for U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

Veterans can now get free access by presenting veteran ID cards, Department of Defense or Veteran Health ID cards or a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. The measure does not lift fees for camping, transportation, special permits, reservation fees or tours.

Gold Star families — the relatives of servicemembers killed on active duty while the military is engaged in hostilities — can download and print a voucher to show a ranger or keep on their dashboard.

The new lifetime pass for veterans and Gold Star families is in addition to the free annual Military Pass, which has been available to active duty service members and their families since May 2012.  

Previously, only current military personnel and their families had access to a free annual pass, but veterans and Gold Star families are now covered by the permanent waiver of entrance and standard amenity fees.

Veterans Day is also a free entrance day for everyone at federal recreational lands, including national parks.

Arizona has three national parks: the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Saguaro National Parks. Chiricahua National Monument, known for its rock spires and pinnacles, is close to becoming a national park, needing only passage in the House of Representatives.

The National Park Service has an interactive list of parks and national monuments, organized by state. The U.S. Forest Service has an interactive national forest map online that shows camping sites, trailheads and spots for other outdoor activities, including fees and availability.

The free lifetime access for veterans comes from a law named after Alexander Lofgren, an Afghanistan War veteran who was 32 when he died in an accident while hiking with his girlfriend in Death Valley National Park in California in April 2021.

Lofgren was a congressional aide for Grijalva in his Tucson district office and had spent two years working for U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. He was also an advocate for free National Park access for veterans and Gold Star families.

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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