With the summer travel season finally here, we can’t wait to do some serious exploration of America’s national parks during the warmer months. This is the best time of year to take a road trip and try to visit as many of these iconic locations as possible. One of the coolest ways to keep a souvenir of your visit for everyone is to collect cancellation stamps at each visitor center you visit. Obtaining your passport stamp at each stop keeps a detailed log of all your visits with the exact date. It’s not just for national parks either. These stamps can also be collected from National Historic Sites and Monuments. Plus, the Passport Program is a fun way to get kids interested and involved in our country’s vast system of national parks. That’s everything you didn’t know about the program and why you and your family and friends should consider picking up a book this year.
Can you still get national park passport stamps?
You can always get a park passport booklet stamped, and it’s arguably one of the most popular souvenirs sold in parks today. The Passport to Your National Parks program began in 1986 and was launched by Eastern National, a non-profit organization established in 1947 by National Park Service Rangers. They are the ones who run all the educational programs you will encounter in the hundreds of national parks, historic sites and monuments across the country. The money they collect is often also used for archaeological work, funding historical re-enactments, and developing the educational exhibits you see in many parks and visitor centers.
Eastern National also has hundreds of gift shops and bookstores located within the boundaries of many parks. What’s cool about this is that all proceeds from sales are then donated directly to support the Park System. So when you pick up a passport book, you’re not only about to record memories, you’re also helping support our precious public lands. It’s a win-win situation.
Since its inception, Eastern National has slowly expanded the program to offer more types of books in camp stores. There are more National Park sites and stamps than there are places for used stamps in each book. These days they offer expansion pages in case you run out, but they also sell a larger collector’s edition and the jumbo “Explorer Edition”, both of which have more space in them. There is also a Junior Ranger Edition designed just for kids. It’s a great way for them to remember their visits to the national park years later when they’re older.
How do I use my National Parks Passport Book?
Using your passport book is simple and an integral part of the pleasure of traveling in the national parks. The NPS is the group that determines exactly where they are in each location, and this varies with each location. Most of the time, a quick visit to the park’s visitor center will reveal your purpose. From there, all you have to do is find the correct region in the guide and stamp your book accordingly. Sometimes they hide the stamps in an unusual place, so you may need to ask a Park Ranger if you can’t find one. There’s also an online list of locations that you can find here, but for us it’s best to search without it as it forces you to explore each park more.
If you forget to stamp your book during your visit, it’s usually possible to send a self-addressed envelope to the park and have one sent back to you. Don’t forget to check the gift shop for bonus passport stickers. They make these every year for a select few locations and sell them for around $3 each. You can buy the complete set or individually online if you miss one. It’s a colorful extra souvenir to add to your national park passport book. If you are a frequent visitor to national parks, we must warn you that the standard book is a bit lacking in pages. You’ll probably fill it up quickly and have to buy a new one. We’ve heard of some enthusiasts buying one for every region of the country just for that reason. However, if you only visit a national park about once a year, there’s no reason to buy one of the larger ones.
Either way, this program is one of the most engaging and easy-to-participate ideas developed in conjunction with the National Park Service over the past 40 years, and I think it’s super cool to see which stamps we can collect each year.
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