PSA: National Park Passes Not Valid at Parks Operated by Contractors [Updated]

Update 8:15am PT on 11/14/17: Clearly I made a mistake and I apologize. I posted the information I received way too quickly and without verifying it. My friend read that though the senior pass is a good value, because there are fees and charges at parks operated by contractors that the passes don’t cover, it can add a lot of money to what might seem like a good deal. He misunderstood and thought entry fees weren’t covered at parks using contractors. When I received this information from him, it seemed like a good idea to let people know. But of course, it was wrong and the entry fee is indeed covered by the pass. It’s good to have readers who call you out on these kinds of mistakes!

Did you purchase a National Park Pass before the rates went up? If you did, or know anyone who has one, it’s important to remember this! Though the passes are valid at parks operated the National Park Service, they are NOT valid at parks operated by CONTRACTORS. One popular National Park that falls into this category is Yosemite. Always remember to check into this or you might be surprised when you’re asked to pay an entrance fee!

Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. Image source:

18 thoughts on “PSA: National Park Passes Not Valid at Parks Operated by Contractors [Updated]

  1. Kelly Sargent

    This is NOT correct! We go to Yosemite all the time in our pass. Never had to pay. And their concession Operator does the hotels and food service options. Not the park.

  2. MD/DC Flyer

    I wonder where you got this information because it seems to be contradicted by the NPS page for Yosemite. I’ve been using the annual pass card for years and never been refused entry anywhere.

    There are fees that are not covered by the pass – but never the entry fee.

  3. Phil S.

    I checked the link Kelly S. provided above, and NPS’s website, and she seems to be correct. I did not find anything that suggest that one may require to pay entrance fee to Yosemite or to ANY OTHER of over 2,000 National Parks, if one has purchased annual or lifetime pass. If that is not so, I just recently wasted my hard earned money to purchase a lifetime pass.

    Shelli, please research again and broadcast your findings.

  4. Jeff

    Is this some kind of joke? This is absolutely not true. I just went to Yosemite in July with my annual pass.

    Zero quality control here.

  5. Bill

    Not true…..
    Here’s what is says….
    What is NOT covered by the Annual Pass?
    The Annual Pass does not cover Expanded Amenity fees such as camping, boat launching, parking, special tours, special permits or ferries.

    Also, some facilities and activities on Federal recreation lands (including those mentioned above) are managed by private concessionaires. The concessionaires charge for their services as any private company does and the Pass is not valid for their services.

    1. Shelli Post author

      Thanks so much for adding this information, Bill. It’s good to know what extra expenses there will be even if the entry fee is covered.

  6. Kelly sargent

    And yet the tweet is still up about this and so is the article, also as far as Pike’s Peak…not run by National Park service and not in the list. The city of Colorado Springs sells passes . A

  7. bluecat

    Not to pick on this particular post but it does highlight the difference in vetting that you get between a blog and, say, the NYT.

    1. Shelli Post author

      This is a great comment, bluecat. This post deserves picking on, so no worries. And speaking of vetting and the NYT, I just saw the movie Obit. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s a documentary about the obituary writers for the NYT. I’m not at all comparing what we do here to the NYT, so please take this in good humor. Every now and again even they have to print retractions!


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