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Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Frederick, Maryland
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11 posts
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Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Hi all!

I'm looking at buying the annual pass so we can hit up a lot of the national parks and areas in NM. I saw that some areas are a bit pricey, so I was wondering if it's the better part of valor to buy the pass or pay as we go?

There will be two of us. We're planning on running down from ABQ to Roswell, down as far as Carlsbad, going across to White Sands from Artesia, up through ToC and ending in Santa Fe (flying home from ABQ). The majority of the time will be spent in Santa Fe.

I also saw where some of the areas might be closed due to fire hazards, we're going this September.

Thanks!

11 replies to this topic
Aurora, Illinois
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for New Mexico, Santa Fe, Albuquerque
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1. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Really, only you can answer this. Simply add up the cost of each place you intend to visit and then compare with the annual pass.

Note: While the pass will pay for admission to Carlsbad, which includes the Natural Entrance and Big Room self tours, it does not cover the cost of any ranger-guided tours...and they are definitely worthwhile, especially the King's Palace tour.

Be sure to include other places you might go over the course of 1 year. That could make it worthwhile.

Keith

Frederick, Maryland
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2. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Thanks for the advice!

Carlsbad was one of the more expensive ones, which is why I was wondering if the pass was a good idea. We're looking at doing a few of those tours; they look awesome.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
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for Santa Fe, Mesa Verde National Park, Boulder, New Mexico
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3. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

What do you mean by some areas are a bit pricey? For lodging, entrance fees etc? Carlsbad Caverns is only $12 per person, Bandelier is $25, White Sands $5 per person, many others are free.

Aurora, Illinois
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for New Mexico, Santa Fe, Albuquerque
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4. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

I have done the King's Palace, Lower Cave, and Left Hand Tunnel Tours...twice! I loved them all and highly recommend them. It would take two days at the park to fit them all in (along with Natural Entrance and Big Room) in terms of scheduling.

Keith

Frederick, Maryland
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5. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

CasaAzul- Thanks for your reply. Yes, entrance fees (the pass only covers entrance fees, not lodging). I noted that some were per person. The Annual Pass is $80. =)

KthSch- We were looking at Left Hand and Lower Cave. We're planning on spending a full day at Carlsbad, especially for the bats program.

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6. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Get the pass if you think you will use it at enough places. If you time it right, a pass bought mid-month will go through the end of that month the next year. So if you buy it June 10, 2018, it expires June 30, 2019. You just have to make sure next year's trip falls in that timeframe.

I really like having it for all the smaller parks that maybe you would skip because you're not sure if they are "worth" the price of admission.

Frederick, Maryland
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7. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Brilliant, thanks!! I didn't think about when to buy it (I was thinking just before we went, not day-wise) or about the wee parks, so that's awesome. I was leaning toward getting the pass, for convenience sake.

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8. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

You should be able to buy it at the first park you enter. If it's a smaller one though, I would call ahead to check if they have some on hand. It only takes them a couple minutes to put your information in off your drivers' license.

Los Alamos, New...
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for Santa Fe, Los Alamos
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9. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Many smaller parks and monuments, however (e.g. Manhattan Project National Historical Park, where I volunteer), don't charge admission, in which case getting the pass is a "nothing from nothing leaves nothing" proposition. I still recommend the pass, strongly. As noted above, it'll be useful for 365+ calendar days, all across the country, at a staggering variety of sites.

One minor caveat: buy the pass at your earliest opportunity (taking full advantage of the little trick suggested above). Many of the no-charge parks also lack the capability to sell passes, MPNHP inclluded.

As regards what to do at Carlsbad, I am an ex-caver and have been not only to these places, but to some others a tourist generally can't get to. I don't think I'd take the time for the Left-Hand Tunnel unless you're a real cave fanatic. Lower Cave and King's Palace are both much more scenic.

Aurora, Illinois
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10. Re: Annual NPS Pass or Pay As We Go?

Agree with canbelto re; King’s Palace vs. Left Hand Tunnel. In my opinion, King’s Palace has the best and most beautiful formations. The main interest in Left Hand Tunnel is to experience the caverns by candlelight.

Keith

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