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I've read that you can buy a pass valid in almost every National Park for $80, called 'America the Beautiful'.

Some sources state that you have to buy regular entrance tickets and keep every single one of them. Once they sum up to $80, you can ask for the pass (for free). Other sources claim that you can buy the pass right away (which in my opinion is easier). Can anyone confirm which it is?

Since I'm not a US resident, I'm not gonna risk it to pre-order it through the official site and hope it arrives in time before we leave for the US.

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This is for vehicle access - walking in is free I think? –  e100 Jul 11 '12 at 16:36

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The pass is available for purchase directly at a number of locations, as per this list.

You can not collect receipts and turn them into a pass after the fact (given that receipts rarely list any person details, if you could do this you'd expect to see people selling receipts for below face value on eBay!).

You can upgrade a single entry receipt into a full pass by paying the difference within 7 days, with a few conditions - the details on this are below.

Keep in mind that the 'America The Beautiful' pass is only valid at Federally managed areas, and does not gain you entry into any state managed parks/etc. With park entry to National Parks ranging between free and ~$25, you'll need to visit a reasonable number of parks to make the pass worthwhile.

From the FAQ for the pass :

12. If I visited a Federal recreation site and paid the entrance or use fee and I have the receipt, can I trade in the receipt and pay the difference to upgrade to an Annual Pass?

Generally, no. When you are making your purchase, you should carefully consider which one of the fee and pass options best suits your needs.

National Parks will ONLY upgrade entrance or use receipts from National Parks to an Annual Pass, and will NOT UPGRADE entrance or use receipts from other land management agencies. Any upgrades must be done IN PERSON AT A NATIONAL PARK, within 7 days of the original entry receipt purchase date.

Currently, the other four land management agencies (USDA FS, BLM, FWS, Reclamation) do not upgrade day-use entrance receipts to Annual passes.

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We're planning to do a 4 week road trip through western US, visiting quite a few NP's, so it should pay off. –  Bart May 21 '12 at 7:04

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