Getting older has its benefits. The magical age of 62 provides quite a few nuggets, including senior discounts at some movie theaters, restaurants, and hotels.
Then there’s the big one: Social Security. At 62, one becomes eligible for 75 percent of their benefits.
One of the most anticipated gifts available for someone turning 62 is the Senior Pass that, for $10, provides the owner with free admittance to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, for their lifetime. The Senior Pass also admits the pass-holder’s traveling companions in a noncommercial vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas (Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite) and the pass-holder plus three additional adults where per-person fees are charged.
Also, at many sites across the nation, the Senior Passes provide the pass-holder a discount on camping, swimming, boat launching, guided tours, and other visitor activities.
Although these perks and benefits to the 62-and-over set will not change, there is a price increase on the horizon for the Senior Pass. On Monday, Aug. 28, the cost of the lifetime Senior Pass will increase to $80. So anyone who is currently 62 and does not have a Senior Pass, or will turn 62 prior to August 28, should promptly purchase the pass for a substantial savings.
In 2016, as part of the National Park Service Centennial Act — which prepared “the National Park Service for its Centennial in 2016 and for a second century of promoting and protecting the natural, historic, and cultural resources of our National Parks…” — the legislation stated that the cost of the lifetime Senior Pass would be equal to the cost of the Annual Pass in the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands series of passes.
The Senior Pass, formerly called the Golden Age Passport, has been $10 since 1994. Funds from Senior Passes sold in national parks, including Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, will go to a National Park Foundation Endowment and a National Park Centennial Challenge Fund to be used on projects and programs to enhance the visitor experience in national parks.
In addition to the National Park Service, Senior Passes provide access to sites managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Lake Kaweah), U.S. Forest Service (Giant Sequoia National Monument), Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Most of the funds from Senior Passes sold by these five agencies will be retained by the site where the pass is sold and spent on visitor-related improvements. These fees are an important revenue stream for federal land managers.
There’s an alternative to paying a lump sum of $80— If the $80 price is too steep to pay all at once, there is an installment plan available. An annual Senior Pass will be available for $20, which will be valid for one year from the date of issuance.
Four annual Senior Passes ($20) purchased in consecutive years (total: $80) may be traded in for a lifetime Senior Pass.
For anyone who already has a Senior Pass, all benefits stay the same and remain valid. Don’t lose the pass, however, because to replace it, a new pass has to be purchased for the going rate.
A Senior Pass, now and after August 28, may be purchased locally at the Sequoia National Park entrance station or the Foothills Visitor Center.