Recreational Areas

Learn how to find national and state parks, national forests or streams, monuments, wildlife refuges, and U.S. historic sites. Find out how to make camping reservations online and how to buy national parks passes and state parks passes.

Find a Recreational Area

The United States is filled with nationally- and state-designated recreational areas—places of special natural, cultural, or historic significance that have been set aside for their protection and for your enjoyment. They offer a variety of activities, and many are free.

One place to start exploring the possibilities is at Recreation.gov, a one-stop shop for trip planning, reservations, and more for America’s parks, forests, monuments, and other public lands. Or check out these other options:

  • America's Byways - Ready for a road trip? Find maps and information about 150 distinct and diverse roads across America, each singled out for its archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, or scenic qualities.
  • Marine Sanctuaries - Enjoy the beauty and variety of marine life, and the cultural significance of shipwrecks, at 14 marine protected areas in the oceans and Great Lakes. Most permit recreational fishing, diving, surfing, swimming, and kayaking.
  • 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.
  • National Monuments - Over the years, America's presidents established more than 100 national monuments, archeological, and historic sites on public lands. Locate national monuments by state.
  • National Parks - There are more than 400 national parks protecting treasured landscapes and historic areas for your enjoyment and for posterity. Find a national park in your state or one you're planning to visit.
  • National Wildlife Refuges - You can hunt, fish, and observe nature at these protected habitats, home to more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish. Find a wildlife refuge near you by zip code or state.
  • State and Territorial Fish and Wildlife Offices - Use this list to find more protected areas by state.
  • State Parks - Each state has its own system of parks with camping, activities and historic places. 
  • State Tourism Offices - State tourism offices can help you with all aspects of your visit, with information about upcoming festivals and events, museums and landmarks, restaurants, lodging, and more.
  • Wilderness Areas - Wilderness areas are lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition. Find a wilderness area and the visitor rules that apply.
  • World Heritage Sites - World Heritage Sites are places of natural or cultural importance that, by international treaty, belong to all of the world’s people. Find World Heritage sites.

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Entrance Passes for National Parks and State Parks

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.

America the Beautiful - National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass

An America the Beautiful national parks pass allows you to enter 2,000 federal recreation areas including 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 Passes

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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Last Updated: May 29, 2018