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If a group of 5 people travels (in 1 car) to national parks in AZ, UT, NV over the course of 2 weeks (namely, places like Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Zabriskie Point), what would be the cheapest pass they can get?

I found America the Beautiful - National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass but it's only valid for 4 people, as far as I understand. I also found The U.S. Park Pass which is the same price I believe, but it's also valid for 4 people. Are there any options for 5 people? Or does one need to buy two passes in any case if 5 people are travelling? Also, are there any options that are not annual?

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You want 1 America the Beautiful Pass.

(I don't think there is any such thing as a "US Parks Pass". Your link, usparkpass.com, is just a third-party site selling the same America the Beautiful pass.)

If you read the rules for that pass carefully, it says:

  • Allows pass owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle to enter Federally operated recreation sites across the country.

  • Covers the pass owner and three (3) accompanying adults age 16 and older at sites where per person entrance fees are charged. No entry fee charged for children 15 and under.

The 4-person limit only applies at "sites where per person entrance fees are charged". That does not apply at the major national parks; they are all charged per vehicle. For example, the fees page for Grand Canyon shows a vehicle entrance fee. So this pass will let all 5 of you enter, since you will all be in a single private non-commercial vehicle.

(If you were going to enter the parks by bus or on foot or some other way, then the 4-person limit would apply, and your best bet would be to buy two passes.)

I do not believe there is any pass for a shorter period than one year. There are deeply discounted or free passes available to certain groups, such as:

  • US citizens or permanent residents who are at least 62 years old or permanently disabled

  • Members of the US military, reserves, National Guard, and their dependents

  • People who have volunteered at least 250 hours in a year at a federal recreation site

  • US fourth grade students

So if anyone in your party meets any of those criteria, you could have them get the pass. All of these have the same rules covering everyone in the vehicle.

Otherwise, plan on paying the full price. You can order the pass online, but you can also just buy it when you enter your first park, avoiding the $5 handling fee.

Finally, note that Antelope Canyon is not a US federal site, but on Navajo tribal land, so none of the aforementioned passes will grant you admission there. You will have to pay for it separately. You can only go there with an authorized tour and advance reservations are required.

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    Fourth grade students qualify for a discount?!?!? D'ya suppose my 17-year-old daughter could qualify? "Uh....we held her back...8 times..."? No? (*hurumph!*) Drat... – Bob Jarvis Oct 13 at 16:00
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    @BobJarvis: In fact, fourth grade students get a pass completely free. This is a special initiative to encourage children (and their families) to visit and learn about parks, see nationalparks.org/our-work/campaigns-initiatives/every-kid-park. – Nate Eldredge Oct 13 at 19:00
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It looks like all the options are annual. The guidance for pass use states:

What does the Annual Pass cover?

The Annual Pass admits pass owner/s and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee sites; and pass owner + 3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, where per-person fees are charged. (Children under 16 are always admitted free.)

So basically if you are going to a park where you just pay for your vehicle, all of you are free.

But if you are going to one where each person has to pay the fifth person would have to pay. Your option would probably be to just pay for one adult separately.

  • If per-person fees are charged for the 5th person every visit to every park, then wouldn't it be cheaper to buy two annual passes (if that works)? Or is there an annual pass for 1 person? – user77409 Oct 12 at 22:52
  • @user77409 there’s not one for one person, you can buy two passes for one person if it’s cheaper – user89966 Oct 12 at 22:55

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