America The Beautiful Access Pass – A Free, Lifetime Pass to National Parks for People with Disabilities

Young child wearing a fedora sits in lap of NH park ranger. Both laugh while child proudly holds his new park pass.
Stephen Dermody issues an America the Beautiful access pass to a very happy young camper.

My two-year old son and I stopped in at the Hopkinton-Everett Lake US Army Corps of Engineers station in Contoocook in hopes of obtaining an America The Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Land Access Pass. This is a free, lifetime pass for U.S. Citizens and permanent residents with permanent disabilities which entitles the pass holder and those with them (or up to three additional adults where per-person fees are charged) free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites throughout the country. New Hampshire has a number of sites, including the White Mountain National Forest and Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.

Having called ahead to make sure they had passes available, we were met with a large smile by Stephen Dermody, a Project Manager at the site. I arrived with my passport and driver’s license, and multiple copies of a letter from my son’s doctor attesting that he has a permanent physical impairment that substantially limits one or more of his major life activities, including walking. I expected to leave behind a trail of paperwork.

Young child using a wheelchair proudly holds his new parks pass in front of a NH ranger station.
Proudly showing off a new parks pass

Instead, Stephen chatted easily with the toddler who had just rolled into his office and with refreshing, nonjudgmental simplicity, he opened the book of park passes and flipped to the Access Pass page. We found applying for the Access Pass in person to be incredibly simple, but my son’s disability is clearly manifest by his wheelchair and we were able to get to a Federal recreation site without much trouble. Applying in person meant that after a 10-minute visit with Stephen, we left with pass in hand. We didn’t need to fill out an on-line application or pay a processing fee.

If you are unable to get to a Federal recreation site, you can apply for a pass through the mail. Go to to download an application. In addition to the completed application, you also will need to submit proper paperwork, including proof of citizenship or residency and documentation of disability. There is a one-time $10 processing fee for passes obtained through the mail, but compared to the $80 annual fee for a regular park pass, it is a pretty good deal. And if you are able to make it to the Hopkinton Everett Lake station, tell Stephen we say hi!

This article is an update of one that was first published in the 2017 Winter/Spring issue of the Disability RAPP


Disability Rights Center – New Hampshire is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers for people with disabilities across New Hampshire. DRC is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for New Hampshire and has authority under federal law to conduct investigations in cases of probable abuse or neglect.

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