Recreational Areas and Activities

Learn how to get passes for national and state parks, wildlife refuges, and other federal recreation sites. Explore a variety of outdoor recreational activities, like camping, fishing, and more.

National and State Park Passes

The National Park Service and each of the 50 states operate their own park systems with different fees and types of passes. National and state parks do not accept each other’s passes.

National Park Pass (America the Beautiful)

An America the Beautiful pass allows you to enter 2,000 federal recreation areas. This includes national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests. You can’t use the pass at state parks.

There are several types of America the Beautiful passes:

  • The Annual Pass, available to anyone 16 and older for $80
  • A Lifetime Senior Pass for $80 or an Annual Senior Pass for $20 for ages 62 and older
  • A free lifetime Access Pass for people with disabilities
  • Free annual passes for the military, fourth graders, and volunteers

Visit the National Park Service website for information on how to get each type of pass.

State Park Pass

There are more than 10,000 state parks in the U.S. Every state has its own state park system and most charge entrance fees. Many sell annual passes for all state parks in their state. Some sell passes for individual parks or for regions within their state, such as the Lake Tahoe region in California. Some states don’t charge entrance fees for their parks, so they don’t sell entrance passes.

State parks passes can only be used at a specific state’s parks. They can’t be used at national parks located within that state, and they can’t be used at another state’s parks.

Many states offer free or discounted annual passes for special groups such as veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities. The details are different for every state. Visit the state parks website of the state you’re interested in to learn about its fees and passes.

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Find a Recreational Area

The United States is filled with nationally- and state-designated recreational areas. These places have special natural, cultural, or historic significance. They offer a variety of activities, and many are free.

Find information and services at Recreation.gov for trip planning, reservations, and more. Learn about parks, forests, monuments, and other public lands across the U.S. and its territories. You can also explore these other options:

Parks and Forests

  • National Parks - There are more than 400 national parks protecting treasured landscapes and historic areas. Find a national park in your state or one you're planning to visit.
  • State Parks - Each state has its own system of parks with camping, activities, and historic places.
  • National Forests - Discover national forests and grasslands, home to 150,000 miles of trails, 57,000 miles of streams, 122 alpine ski areas, 439 wilderness areas, and 122 wild and scenic rivers.

Monuments and Historic Sites

Protected Land Areas, Fishing Sanctuaries, and Wildlife Refuges

State Tourism Offices and Road Trip Suggestions

  • America's Byways - Ready for a road trip? Find maps and information about 150 distinct and diverse roads across America. Each has special archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, or scenic qualities.
  • State Tourism Offices - State tourism offices can help you with all aspects of your visit. They have information about festivals and events, museums and landmarks, restaurants, lodging, and more.

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Where to Go for Camping, Fishing, Boating, and Other Outdoor Activities

Parks, forests, and other public lands across the U.S. offer a wide range of outdoor activities. The federal government manages some sites, while state governments manage others. 

National Recreational Areas

  • Explore things to do in national recreational areas at Recreation.gov. You can search by entering the name of a national park, forest, landmark, or activity.
  • Find Your Park also has a list of national parks and fun events.

State Recreational Areas

For information on recreational activities in your state:

Find information and services for specific recreational activities:

Camping

You can camp at many national sites, including parks, national seashores, lakeshores, forests, and wilderness areas. Guidelines and fees to visit or use a campsite vary by location. Search Recreation.gov for national camping spots and activities. You’ll get a summary of the campsite, maps, and contact information to make a reservation. Learn National Park Service tips for tent or recreational vehicle (RV) camping, and staying safe. For camping information in your state, contact your state park system or state tourism office.

Fishing

You can find many national and state fishing locations, including lakes, rivers, and waterways. Explore national recreational areas to fish. Learn about many types of fishing, safety tips, and more. For information on saltwater fishing, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Resources for Fishermen or the National Saltwater Angler Registry. Each state grants permits (fishing licenses) and determines periods of time (seasons) when you can fish. For fishing laws and regulations in your state, contact your state fish and wildlife office. There may be rules on the type of bait and fishing equipment you can use. There may also be limits on the number, size, and type of fish you can keep.

Hunting

Experience big game, small game, and bird hunting on America's public lands depending on where you go and the time of year. Search for national hunting sites and activities. Hunting fees, licensing, and seasonal restrictions vary by location. There are more than 370 national wildlife refuges and protected wetlands in the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Find a map of national wildlife refuges that permit hunting. Everyone age 16 and older who wants to hunt must get a hunting license. Kids under 16 may need a junior hunting license. If you want to hunt waterfowl, you need a Federal Duck Stamp in addition to a state hunting license. For hunting licenses and regulations in your state, contact your state fish and wildlife office.

Boating and Other Activities

Public parks, lakes, and rivers offer a variety of boating activities. If you don’t own a boat, you can find places to rent one. Search national boating sites and activities. You’ll find descriptions of sites, maps, directions, and contact information. Learn from the Coast Guard about boating safety for boat operators and passengers. For state boating laws and regulations, contact your state fish and wildlife office. Licensing, fees, and seasonal restrictions may vary from site to site.

Public lands provide many types of biking activities and trails. Search for national biking trails and cycling activities. When planning your bike ride, check your destination’s licensing, fees, and seasonal restrictions.    

You can also explore a wide range of hiking trails at public recreational areas. Many trails are paved to provide wheelchair access. Get information about national hiking trails and activities. You’ll find trail maps, details about trail conditions, and more. For information about biking or hiking in your state, contact your state park system or state tourism office.

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Last Updated: December 6, 2018