National Parks and State Parks serve similar purposes. They preserve lands and wildlife to promote conservation. They also highlight and preserve areas of historical significance. Sometimes, the different parks can be very close to each other. This may lead to some confusion among visitors.
Basically, National Parks and Trails denote areas that have some type of national interest. Examples include the Grand Canyon National Park, the historic Selma to Montgomery Trail, the Trail of Tears, Boston Harbor Light Station National Historic Park and others.
State parks highlight areas of statewide interest. These include places like Big Ridge State Park in Tennessee, Fall Heritage State Park in Massachusetts and more.
Many State Parks charge an entrance fees. Almost every state offers annual park passes or permits. These range from stickers placed on the vehicle to cards that are shown to staff upon entering the park. Some of these may give the permit or pass holder discounts on camping, renting canoes or on other amenities. Costs vary among the 50 states.
State parks are usually under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources or conservation for the particular state you want to visit. State park passes will not work for National Parks and vice versa.
National Parks are also likely to charge an entrance fee. The U.S. government does offer several types of annual passes for sale. These are good for national parks, trails and historic sites that are administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Federal Bureau of Land Management or the Federal Bureau of Reclamation.
Annual park passes are also offered at National Parks and Trails. These passes give the cardholder unlimited visits for a full year. Some National Park passes, such as the America the Beautiful Senior Pass, give discounts on camping and some other activity fees.
Prices for the America the Beautiful National Parks passes begin at $80. The America the Beautiful Senior Pass is $10 and gives unlimited visits for the lifetime of the purchaser. There is also an Access Pass for U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities. This is free and also allows unlimited visits by the purchaser.
The America the Beautiful National Parks pass at $80 can be purchased online. Discounted passes for senior citizens and for those on disability can only be purchased in person at a National Park. Proof of senior citizen status or disability must be presented. For more information on the National Park passes visit them online here or call 1-888-ASK USGS, Ext. 1.
U.S. National Park Service
State Parks for Each of the 50 States
Click on the name of this author to view guides of highlighted state parks for each of the 50 states. The 50 state guide for National Parks is still being developed as of this writing.