By Shannon Lawlor
Many families find themselves hiking in a national park or touring the attractions. But the popularity of the activity can result in some overcrowding in parks. Military members who have a military National Park Pass have found themselves struggling to enjoy their days off in the parks due to park restrictions.

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How the Military National Park Pass Works

The military pass for admission to the parks allows active-duty military members, Veterans, and their families to enjoy the parks for free. It can be obtained online or at a federal recreation site. The military National Park Pass grants the following military members and their dependents free admission to national parks:
  • U.S. military members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Maines, Coast Guard, and Space Force.
  • Reserve and National Guard members.
  • U.S. military member dependents.
  • U.S. military veterans.
  • Gold Star Family members.
Military members and Gold Star Families were awarded eligibility to receive a lifetime of free admission to national parks. The military National Park Pass is an incredible option for Veterans and military members to enjoy the great outdoors. But there have been some complaints about restrictions that national parks will put in place.

So… What’s the Problem?

Military members and Veterans who have the military National Park Pass are losing out on admission to popular attractions due to specific lottery admissions. Some trails and attractions that require a lottery for entry are Half Dome at Yosemite National Park and Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park. To avoid overcrowding, the parks require tourists to participate in a lottery to gain admission. The National Park Lottery for popular attractions doesn’t include or set aside tickets for military members. It lumps them in with the general public. This means a lot of Veterans are missing out on their opportunity to see particular attractions. The decision to implement a lottery system was made to help with overcrowding, avoid damages, and maintain safety for the general public. Some parks even completely close their doors to new visitors to avoid overcrowding.

Possible Changes

Lawmakers hope to change the system so parks can set aside slots for military affiliates when national park admission is limited due to overcrowding. This will give military members, Veterans, and their families a better chance at admission. They also requested information on how many parks use this system, how many have registration requirements or fees to enter the lottery, and how many military affiliates visit national parks annually. The military National Park Pass holders and Gold Star Families could benefit greatly from this change if the law goes into effect. It would allow military affiliates to reserve their own spot during peak travel times. A response to the proposal was requested by October 24, 2022.

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