Enjoying majestic views of Mount Rainier on snowshoes

The short trip from Narada Falls to Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier National Park is one of Washington's classic snowshoe hikes.
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The short trip from Narada Falls to Reflection Lake at Mount Rainier National Park is one of Washington's classic snowshoe hikes.
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Cheap deal on senior pass for national parks will end soon

July 12, 2017 12:31 PM

Remember our advice for getting that deal on a senior (age 62 and over) lifetime pass for national parks and federal lands?

The deal is about to end. Starting Aug. 28, the price will go from the current $10 — when buying a pass at a park station or National Parks Service office — to $80.

At present, a pass costs $20 if ordered online or by mail. The new cost will be $90.

The fee increase — the first since 1994 — is the result of a congressional mandate passed in December 2016.

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It “will support critical investments in maintenance projects at national parks and federal recreational lands nationwide,” according to a news release from the Park Service.

The pass is good for your lifetime as an entrance pass to national parks, forest lands and recreation areas, among other sites totaling more than 2,000 nationwide.

If you order online or by mail, prepare to wait.

“Due to expected high order volume, there could be delays with online and mail order processing of up to several months,” the Park Service said in its news release.

A representative answering the phone Friday for the U.S. Geological Survey — the agency that handles online and mail orders for the pass — said it was just getting to the late-April online orders.

The agency, on its storefront website, recommends that you buy a pass at “the first site you visit,” and gives a link to a list of sites selling the pass.

If you buy in person, you need proof of age and residency. Ordering online, you need to upload that information. Either way, qualifying documents include a driver’s license, passport or state-issued ID.

Among regional sites on the list of those selling the pass (call ahead to check availability) are:

▪  The Olympic National Park’s main visitor center in Port Angeles, 3002 Mount Angeles Road, as well as its staffed entrance booths during business hours. Phone: 360-565-3130

▪  The Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, 100 Brown Farm Road NE, Olympia. Phone 360-753-9467

▪  The Olympic National Forest office, 1835 Black Lake Blvd. SW, Olympia. Hours 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Phone: 360-956-2402

▪ The Mount Rainier National Park’s Nisqually entrance and the Carbon River Ranger Station for now. The White River and Stevens Canyon entrance stations will have the passes when they open later this summer. Phone: 360-569-2211

▪  The Outdoor Recreation Information Center — REI store at 222 Yale Ave. N. in Seattle. Phone: 206-470-4060

If you already have a pass, congratulations. You’re still good.

Previous versions of the pass, such as Golden Access or Golden Age passports, will be accepted for the life of the passholder even after the new, pricier pass goes into effect.

For those who turn 62 after the Aug. 28 deadline (or if you lost your pass and didn’t get a replacement in time), a new annual “senior” pass will be offered for $20.

This is an option if you don’t want to spend the $80 up front. After buying annual passes for four years, you can trade them in for a lifetime pass at no additional cost.

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

For more information

More information on the National Park Service’s senior pass can be found at bit.ly/2rV8KtA or by calling 888-275-8747. The Park Service has an online page devoted to the changes at bit.ly/2uidmiJ.