Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Passes and Permits

Recreation Passes 

National passes cover recreation fees found at federal recreation areas such as national forests and grasslands. They also can be used at national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands. They cover the use of facilities and services at many day-use sites on US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. There are several pass options to consider. Visit recreation passes to learn about the variety of pass options available to you.

Fee-Free Days

The Forest Service waives recreation fees at most day-use sites on lands managed by the agency. Participation by concession-operated sites may vary. The 2022 dates are:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Jan. 17, 2022
  • President's Day: Feb. 21, 2022
  • National Get Outdoors Day : June 11, 2022
  • National Public Lands Day : Sept. 24, 2022
  • Veterans Day: Nov. 11, 2022

About Recreation Fees

The Forest Service offers places for hiking, biking, skiing, nature viewing, scenic drives, and for gathering forest products such as mushrooms, firewood, and Christmas trees. Many of the facilities and services associated with these opportunities are free. However, some do require fees or permits to help maintain, manage and improve your national forests and grasslands. Requirements may vary. The best place to start to find the answers is on your destination forest or grassland website.

Recreation Fee Types

Recreation fees, authorized by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, enables federal land management agencies to reinvest the following types of fees back into the recreation sites:

Standard Amenity Fees

Examples: Picnic areas, developed trailheads, destination visitor centers

Pass Coverage: Yes.  Pass coverage does vary at concessionaire-managed sites

Expanded Amenity Fees

Examples: Campgrounds, highly developed boat launches and swimming areas, cabin or lookout rentals. Services like hookups, dump stations, special tours, transportation systems and reservation services.

Pass Coverage:  No.  However, holders of Senior and Access Passes do receive a 50% discount for single family campsites.

Special Recreation Permits

Examples: Shooting ranges, special events, specialized trail systems

Pass Coverage: No. However, some exceptions do exist.

Recreation Permits

The Forest Service may require recreation permits when extra measures are needed to protect natural or cultural resources, to restrict the number of people participating in the activity at any one time, to provide extra safety or for other specialized services. These permits may be issued to individuals as “Special Recreation Permits.” Examples are:

  • Off-highway vehicle riding
  • Boating on designated Wild and Scenic Rivers
  • Rock climbing
  • Wilderness areas that have limited access
  • Shooting ranges
  • Groomed cross-country ski trails 

Special Use Permits:

Special Use Permits grant certain rights or privileges to occupy and use a specific area. These permits contain specific terms and conditions that the permit holder must follow.  They are issued to profit and non-profit organizations and include:

  • Group activities that have 75 or more people or if a fee is collected for the activity
  • Outfitting and guiding
  • Recreation events, such as weddings, family reunions and bicycle races

For information about permits required to conduct business on national forests, please visit Special Uses.

Share the Experience Photo Contest 

Win $10,000 and have your photo taken on a national forest or grassland on the front of the Interagency Annual Pass. Enter the Share the Experience Photo Contest, an annual competition encouraging all nature lovers and amateur shutterbugs to capture their favorite views, moments and adventures on the nation's public lands.

Sponsored by the National Park Foundation in partnership with the five federal land management agencies, including the Forest Service, agencies, Share the Experience  showcases the more than 500 million acres of federal lands and draws entries from across the United States. Past winners!

A photo of the Share the Experience photo contest. Official Federal Recreation Lands photo contest.