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National Park Passport: The Best National Park Souviner

Post Summary: National Park Passport

Looking for a fun, easy, and cheap way to document your journey through the National Park? There is no better way to document your adventure than a National Parks passport book.

But what is a National Park Passport exactly? In short, they are a must-have for any National Park adventurer. In this article, I’m going to go over everything you need to know about the national park passport program, including the types of national park passports as well as where to buy them and how to document your travel in your passport.

Cover Photo Credit: Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Instagram Account

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Read the full disclosure policy here

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Read the full disclosure policy here

Quick Guide to National Park Passport Books

There are 5 options for the

What is a National Park Passport Book?

Do you have a passport? You know that one that will let you leave the country, and when you arrive in another, it gets stamped. Well, the Passport to Your National Parks program is very similar (except you don’t need a park’s passport to enter the park).

A national parks passport is a small book that has space to place park cancellation stamps and stickers to commemorate each park you visit. Best of all, this program is free once you have purchased your national park passport book.

How can you participate in the passport book program?

  1. Buy a national park passport book.
  2. Visit a national park and head to the visitor center/park museum/ranger stations.
  3. Check the date on the passport stamp.
  4. Stamp your passport for free at the passport station.
  5. Repeat often.

The National Park Passport Book is the cheapest and best souvenir of your national park adventures. The Passport to the Parks program was started in 1986. It was designed to help park visitors track their adventures through the parks and celebrate park anniversaries. Remember, these were the days before everyone had a camera and the ability to take hundreds of selfies. So documenting your travels was a little different back then.

The program is simple.. The only cost to visitors is that initial book purchase.

While the times have changed, the Passport program is still one of the most popular national park souvenirs.

National Park Cancellation Stamps?

National Park Cancellation Stamps are 32mm round stamps. They have the park unit along the top edge, the date in the center, and the location at the bottom. The stamps are usually found in Ranger Stations and Visitor Centers. Look for the Passport Stamp Cancellation Stations. The stations are usually near the park’s bookstores.

Some parks have multiple stamps or have stamps from other units. They often have a unique stamp per visitor center. Special cancellation stamps are commissioned for special events like the 2016 NPS centennial or the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

Passport Stamp

 For example, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has 11 official stamps. They are for the following locations.

  • Cades Cove, TN
  • Elkmont, TN
  • Gatlinburg, TN
  • Sugarland, TN
  • Townsend, TN
  • Tremont, TN
  • Bryson City, NC
  • Cataloochee, NC
  • Clingmans Dome
  • Deep Creek, NC
  • Oconaluftee, NC

In addition to their own stamps, some visitor centers in the Great Smokies offer stamps from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

** Note: most of the 423 National Park Service units participate in the Passport to the Parks Program, but NOT all. There are NPS units that do not offer a stamp. For example, Arizona’s Hohokam Pima National Monument does not offer a stamp.

Why you should get a National Park Passport?

The simple answer is that it is fun and addictive. Getting your stamp is like a rite of passage when visiting any NPS unit. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who is National Park Obsessed and who doesn’t collect stamps. They are a universal collectible in the National Park lover community.

  • Passport stamps are free. Other than the price of the book, these books are great low-cost souvenirs.
  • Passport stamp collecting is eco-friendly and minimalist. With a passport book, you don’t have to purchase a souvenir at each national park (unless you want to). This means you don’t produce are extra trash during your park trip.
  • Passport books are easy to pack. The books are small and compact and can fit carry-on luggage.
  • Collect special stamps. For anniversaries, special occasions, or historical events, some parks will offer limited edition stamps.
  • It is a chronological record of your national park journey. Each stamp has a date on it, so it records when you visited that park.
  • Write your name and phone number/email address on the inside of the front and back cover of your passport book just incase your book is misplaced.

Tips and Tricks for National Park Stamp Collecting

  • Some National Parks have more than one passport cancellation stamp.
    • Yellowstone National Park has at least 8 stamps. Each stamp has a different location at the bottom, and some stamps are only found at specific visitor centers.
  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the date before you stamp.
    • Sometimes the dates on the stamps get changed, so double-check and make sure the date is actually today’s date.
  • Do a test stamp.
    • I always to a test stamp on a scrap piece of paper before stamping in my book. It also allows me to check the date and how much pressure is needed to get a clean image.
  • Make sure to close the ink pad before leaving.
    • The next person will appreciate this.

Where to Buy National Park Passports?

The official National Park Passports are sold though the America’s National Parks online store or at most National Park visitor center gift shops. You can also find these the America’s National Parks passport books on Amazon but they are from a 3rd party and more than double the price (so don’t by the Passport To Your National Parks® Classic Edition on Amazon, there).

With the recent increases in park visitation and lots of new people to the world of the National Parks, I recommend buying your national park passport in advance from America’s National Parks rather than waiting until you get to the park. It is just easier to order it online and not having to worry about them being in stock in the park.

Save 15% on your national park passport with code 15OFF at the America’s National Park Store.

Types of National Park Passport Books

Passport To Your National Parks Offical National Park Passports

Passport to Your National Parks Classic Edition

The Classic Edition is the most commonly used National Park Passport. The book is a small softcover spiral bounded notebook that is 6″ x 4″. The book has 112 pages with plenty of space to get started collecting stamps. Each stamp page has space for the park sticker and 4 stamps or 8 stamps if you don’t want the park sticker.

The Classic Edition is about $13.

>>> Click here to get the Classic Edition

Pros: These notebooks are small, lightweight and easy to carry. The pages are firmly attached so they can’t disappear on you.

Cons: You will need 3-4 of these National Passport books if you are going to collect the stamps and stickers from all 423 units.

Upgrade your classic edition puchase with the Passport starter kit along with 9 passport themed gifts.

Passport to Your National Parks Classic Edition
Accessories for the Classic Edition

Passport to Your National Parks Collector’s Edition

The Collector Edition is a slightly larger passport stamp book. It is a spiral-bound hard-cover notebook that is 7.5″ by 10″. It has dedicated space for more than 400 national park sites. This means that this book can help you easily track which NPS units you have visited and how many you still have to go. The book has 192 pages and color-coded by region. It offers maps of each region.

The Collector Edition is around $30.

>>> Click here to get the Collector Edition

Pros: Dedicated sapce for each park with a little bit of of info on each unit. The book has a flexible, weather and tear resistant cover.

Cons: This is a larger book so it takes up more space and weighs more than the classic edition. This book has limited space for stamps. There is room for either two stamps and a sticker or four stamps per park and the book may not be updated for the recent changes in the National Park System.

Passport to Your National Parks Collector’s Edition
Accessories for the Collector’s Edition

Passport to Your National Parks Explorer Edition

The Explorer Edition is the most expensive and complete of the National Park Passports. This book is like the Classic Edition on steroids. The Explorer is a portfolio with an inner binder. The binder allows users to add extra pages to accommodate more park stamps than the other editions. All you need to do is buy the Expanadar Pack.

The Explorer is 9″ by 8.5″ and weighs about 2 lbs so it isn’t the lightest book to carry around but it is possible to leave the book at home and just carry a few pages on your adventures. The binder has a photo pocket, mesh compartment, and a pen slot.

The book comes with a map and list of each National Park Service unit in that region. The regions are color-coded to match the stamp color. You are welcome to rearrange the book any way you would like.

The Explorer Edition is around $70.

>>> Click here to get the Explorer Edition

Pros: This edition is easily expanded to hold stamp pages from all 400+ national park units. The binder is weather proof and a sturdy.

Cons: Big and bulky. Significantly more expensive than other verson plus you’ll need at least 2 expander sets if visiting all 400+ parks.

Passport to Your National Parks Explorer Edition
Accessories for the Explorer Edition
  • Expander Pack – The expander pack provides an extra 16 pages for national park cancellation stamps and 4 pages for regional stamps. These pages are easy to inset into your classic edition. >>> Buy expander packs here.

Passport to Your National Parks Junior Ranger Edition

National Park Passports aren’t just for the adults, junior rangers love passports stamps as well. The Junior Ranger Edition is perfect for kids to start their own stamp collection and collect the Junior Ranger program stamps in the same book. The Junior Ranger is a softcover spiral-bound notebook is 9″ by 7.” It has 100 pages and a sticker set.

The Junior Ranger Edition is around $15.

>>> Click here to get the Junior Edition

Pros: It has education material just for kids. These notebooks are small, lightweight and easy to carry. The pages are firmly attached so they can’t disappear on you.

Cons: Kids will outgrown and doesn’t have a room for all 400+ units.

Passport to Your National Parks Junior Ranger Edition

Other National Park Passports

National Park Obsessed’s National Park Passport & Journal

The ultimate must-have US National Park journal. This book includes pages for all 423 National Park Service units (including the 63 National Parks). This unique souvenir journal is the perfect way to record your travels through the US National Park System. Don’t just stop at recording your travels through the 63 National Parks. The journal is 6 x 9″ so it is small enough to carry around but big enough to record your National Park travels.

The National Park Passport & Journal is around $25 for a paperback edition and $35 for a hardback edition.

>>> Click here to buy on Amazon

Pros: This journal has space for all park units as well as 28 blank pages for any newly established parks as well as space to record dates of the visit, travel companions, sights & wildlife, favorite moments, a park sticker, and 6 passport stamps.

Cons: This book is thick and a little on the heavy side.

National Park Obsessed's National Park Passport & Journal

Accessories for Your National Parks Passport

Passport To Your National Parks® Stampable Sticker Sets

If you don’t want to carry your passport book with you, the stampable sticker set is a great way to collect your stamps without risking your passport book. The sticker set comes with space to collect 15 cancellation stamps. Just place your cancellation stamp on the sticker and when you get home peel the sticker off and place it in your national park passport book. These sets cost $4 each.

>>> Click here to by your stamplable sticker set.

The Passport To Your National Parks Annual Stamp Sets (Stickers)

The Passport To Your National Parks Annual Stamp Sets is a yearly collection of stickers featuring individual parks to go in your national park passport book. Each stamp has an image from the park as well as an educational paragraph about the unit. Each stamp set reaches 1 unit from each of the 9 NPS regions and a larger national stamp featuring 1 park. Each set cost $6.

>>> Click here to by your annual stamp sets.

How to Find National Park Passport Stamp Locations?

Once you have aquired your national park passport, its time to fill it with stamps. But before you do that, you need to decide what kind of stamp collector you are. Are you someone who as to get them ALL or are you statisfied with getting the stamps at one of the visitor centers and don’t care if you have a complete set for every park.

If you are someone who wants a complete set for every park. You need to get a membership in the National Park Travelers Club (NPTC). The NPTC has a database of all the National Park Stamps as well as their locations. Membership costs $10 for the first year and $5.00 a year after that. They also offer awards

Otherwise,

  1. Head to the national park’s visitor center.
  2. Find the cancellation stamp station. They are usually located the end visitor center main desk or in the gift shop. Ask the ranger if you can’t find it.
  3. Do a test stamp on a scrap of paper. Most parks provide scraps. If there is none, ask one of the rangers.
  4. Make sure the stamp(s) has the correct date and which side is right side up.
  5. Open your passport to the section or page for that park.
  6. Stamp your passport!

If you forgot your passport book (or are making an unplanned park visit), you can stamp a scrap of paper or pick up the stampable sticker sets (if available) and glue it into your passport book when you get home.

Frequently Asked Questions About National Park Stamps & Passports

How much is a national park passport?

National Park Passports range in cost from $13-$70, depending on the edition or third party source. For beginners or budget travelers still deciding what kind of park journery they are on, the Classic Edition is the perfect choice. If you are thinking about visiting all the National Parks then the Passport + Journal is the way to go.

How do I get a national park passport stamp?

National Park passport stamps are usually found in national park visitor centers, ranger stations, park museums and occassional in-park hotels. The stamps are usually located near the visitor center main desk or in the gift shop. Look for the cancellation station.

Once you have found the cancellation station, do a test stamp to ensure the correct date and the stamp is right side up. Then open your passport book and stamp away.

How many national park stamps are there?

There are typically 1-2 national park stamps per visitor center. Genearlly speaking, each visitor center will have their own unique stamp and may have some of the park’s other stamps as well.

According to the National Park Travelers Club’s master stamp database there are 3,245 offical national park cancellation stamps to collect plus a further 491 anniversary stamps. There are 485 junior ranger stamps.

What to do if you are missing a stamp?

Oh no, nothing is worse than getting home and discovering you forgot to get a passport stamp. It happens. Or sometimes, you visit a park, and the park visitor center is closed, and you can’t get a stamp. This happened to me in Lake Clark National Park. Or you found out about the National Park Passport Stamp program after you visited several parks.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to run back to the park just to get the stamp. It does make for a good excuse to go back, but it is possible to get the stamp.

Step to get your missing passport stamp:

  1. Find the park’s mailing address (usually found on their website)
  2. Send them a letter including the following
    • Stamped Self-addressed envelope
    • The date you visited
    • The Stamp you need

I have used this trick several times to get missing stamps. It almost always works. If it doesn’t, call the park and follow up.

Final Thoughts on Finding Your Perfect National Parks Passport

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