National Park Quiz 69: Camping

What's your pleasure: Remote backcountry campsite, or frontcountry campground? Kurt Repanshek photo.

1. True or false? Golden Age Passport holders are entitled to reduced camping fees in national parks.

2. True or false? Some campsites in national park campgrounds are reserved for use by people with disabilities.

3. True or false? Biscayne National Park lacks designated campgrounds.

4. True of false? When camping in the backcountry of Death Valley National Park, campers must choose sites not more than two miles from the nearest paved road.

5. True or false? There are vehicle-accessible campgrounds on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

6. True or false? In Yellowstone National Park, both Shoshone Lake and Yellowstone Lake have campsites that are accessible only by boat.

7. Camping is permitted only within designated campgrounds in
a. Acadia National Park.
b. Congaree National Park
c. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
d. Cape Lookout National Seashore

8. Do you like to combine camping with stargazing? If you snag a site in the little 13-site campground in ______ , you can pitch your tent in the first International Dark-Sky Park.
a. Little River Canyon National Preserve
b. Cumberland Island National Seashore
c. Natural Bridges National Monument
d. Bryce Canyon National Park

9. When camping in a Yosemite National Park campground, you should store your food in
a. the trunk of your car
b. a food storage locker
c. a sturdy sack hung at least 10 feet above the ground
d. your tent
e. somebody else’s tent

10. Apgar Campground: Glacier National Park as Sunset Campground: Death Valley National Park and ______ : Great Smoky Mountains National Park. [ “:” means “is to”]
a. Cades Cove Campground
b. Cataloochee Campground
c. Smokemont Campground
d. Elkmont Campground

Extra Credit Question:

11. Which frontcountry (vehicle-accessible) campground in Yellowstone National Park gives you the best odds of seeing wolves?
a. Soda Butte
b. Slough Creek
c. Indian Creek
d. Pebble Creek

Super Bonus Question:

12. If I were to tell my friend that I used some chickees during a recent nine-day visit to a national park, he would immediately know which park I had visited and could probably also name the trail that I had used. What does my friend know that leads him to these conclusions?


(1) True. The Golden Age Passport, which is still valid (though superseded by the new America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass) is not just a lifetime entrance pass to national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas, and national wildlife refuges that charge an entrance fee. It also entitles the passport signee to a 50% discount on federal use fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, parking, boat launching, and tours.

(2) True. For example, Yosemite National Park’s sprawling Upper Pines Campground has three sites (numbers 21, 27, and 42) that are reserved for use by people with disabilities. These sites are wheelchair-accessible and have picnic tables with extended tops.

(3) False. Biscayne has designated campgrounds on Boca Chita Key and Elliott Key. Backcountry camping is strictly limited in the park.

(4) False. Backcountry campers at Death Valley must choose sites beyond two miles from the nearest developed area, paved road, or "day use only" area.

(5) True. There are vehicle accessible (frontcountry) campgrounds on the South Rim at Grand Canyon Village and at Desert View near the park’s east entrance.

(6) True. These are, in fact, the only two places in the park with campsites that are accessible only by boat.

(7) a – No backcountry or backpacking-style camping is permitted anywhere in Acadia National Park.

(8) c – In 2007, the International Dark-Sky Association chose Natural Bridges National Monument to receive the association’s first-ever International Dark-Sky Park designation. At that time of the award, Natural Bridges was the darkest national park yet documented and the only one to receive the best possible light pollution rating (Bortle class 2).

(9) b – Every site in Yosemite’s 13 developed campgrounds is equipped with a metal food storage locker (“bear box”) big enough to hold a good-sized ice chest. Campers are required to store their food in these bear boxes. Since a zero tolerance policy is enforced, anyone caught storing food improperly ends up paying a hefty fine.

(10) d -- Elkmont Campground is the largest campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just as the other two parks are the largest campgrounds in their respective parks.

(11) b -- Slough Creek Campground is your best choice. In 2008, Slough Creek fell within the overlapping or adjoining territories of five wolf packs -- Slough Creek, Druid, Blacktail, Agate and Oxbow. BTW, there is no “Soda Butte Campground” in Yellowstone National Park.

(12) The Wilderness Waterway canoe trail in Everglades National Park, which is typically a nine-day paddling excursion, has campsites available along the route. In places with no dry land, the campsites are chickees -- open-sided huts perched on stilts. While chickees are found in some other places within Everglades National Park, the nine-day length of the visit strongly implies a Wilderness Waterway canoe trip.

Grading: 9 or 10 correct, rest on your laurels; 7 or 8 correct, pretty darn good; 6 correct, passable fair; 5 or fewer correct, nothing to brag about.


If you were to tell a friend you used some chickees during a _recent_ trip, your friend would know you were crazy, or at least slightly addled. The mosquitoes and other biting insects are pretty miserable there until the first cold front in mid- to late- October. And, peak hurricane season is not a particularly wise time to do the full 9 day canoe trip to Whitewater Bay, although the developing El Nino conditions somewhat reduce the chance of a hurricane blowing up in the western Atlantic or Caribbean with only a couple of days notice. [_Maybe_ you could get a tow out of there in time if the water quality folks ran their transect to batten down the sensors.] By November the temperatures are a bit nicer, the rainy season is over, the bugs aren't so bad, and any hurricanes are very likely to arise from western Africa and thus give 7-10 days warning.

Question 9 had me until I reread it and saw _campground_.
I remember when hanging your food was the approved method for backcountry camping in Yosemite's Lyell Canyon. I'm proud to say we never fed the bears, even though bears came through our campsite pretty much every year. Now, there are special lightweight bear-resistant tubes for backpacking in bear country. I need to get my act together enough to go backpacking where I'll need one.

8 correct: pretty darn good or needs remedial NPS camping experience?

You're quite right about the timing of Wilderness Waterway trips, tomp. That route is plenty challenging even without skeeters and storms. Congrats on the quiz score. I doubt that very many others did as well.

I may be wrong on this, since I'm not yet able to get one, but I think the new golden age passes no longer have the discount. I remember a friend of mine telling someone to keep their old card because the new ones don't have as many perks.

Ranger Holly


You're part right: The Golden Age pass has been replaced by the America the Beautiful Senior pass ($10 lifetime), which provides a 50% discount on some (but not all) camping and other expanded amenity fees:

However, the new pass works for FS and BOR and BLM and FWS recreation sites, so it has advantages, too. I'm happy I'm not old enough to qualify and still need to pay my $80/year.

The question deals with the Golden Age Passport, and the Golden Age Passport remains valid despite having been superseded by the ATB-Senior Pass. Many thousands of oldsters (including me) have passed up the opportunity to buy an ATB-Senior Pass and just continue to use the Golden Age Passport

Tomp is correct about the advantages of the ATB-Senior Pass. Here are a few more details. The America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass (One-time cost $10) is

...a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas and pass holder + 3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, at per person fee areas (children under 16 are admitted free). The pass can only be obtained in person at the park. The Senior Pass provides a 50 percent discount on some Expanded Amenity Fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services. In some cases where Expanded Amenity Fees are charged, only the pass holder will be given the 50 percent price reduction. The pass is non-transferable and generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessionaires.

The senior pass is indeed a heckuva bargain (one I'm still too young to appreciate;-)), but it begs a question: Should such an incredible discount be given to retirees, who in many cases probably can afford not only $10 every year to renew their pass but probably five times that much, or should a somewhat similar discount (though not all the way down to $10), be offered to younger generations that are starting careers and might consider the $80 pass a bit much?

If there really is a problem with attracting younger generations to the parks, shouldn't the ATB be priced more attractively, as well as more logically, across-the-board?

I remember the old Golden Age pass. I bought a couple for my folks (the price seemed right). Those were also interagency passes (they had the generic "Federal Fee Area" graphic with what looks to be a dove), and I clearly remember they listed BLM, BOR, Forest Service, F&W, and Army Corps of Engineers. It also listed the Tennessee Valley Authority. We used the pass to get into Uinta NF (with a normal $3 day use fee) on the way to Timpanagos Cave National Monument. The pass also got my mom half off the cave tour fee.

I also went to Zion National Park with my folks. I wanted to come back separately and I could enter with them since we came in the same car. However - they have mandatory shuttles during the peak season, and I wanted to leave early by myself to hike up Angels Landing. So they wrote up a 7 day pass for me since I entered accompanying someone with a Golden Age pass. I think they can also do that for people entering together on annual passes who might be breaking up and reentering the park.

I think the only real differences between the older Golden Age pass and the new Senior Pass are the graphics and card material. My mom couldn't find her old Golden Age pass so I paid for a new Senior Pass. I don't fully recall if that the newer senior pass lists the Tennessee Valley Authority though. Something tells me no.

The amenities discount still applies.

I'd think not everyone who qualifies for the senior pass should be assumed to be that well off. Many are living off of fixed incomes. A few might have invested/saved well. I don't know if there can really be an acceptable economic test for federal recreation use fees.

However - as a matter of policy, we've got age-related discounts for all sorts of things. Seniors can get into movies at reduced rates and get discounts or special deals at restaurants.

I have seen the opposite (younger adult) discounts before. The Berkeley Reperatory Theater in Berkeley, California has a special "under 30" half-price deal for theater tickets. Of course they do have blackout dates, but it's a heckuva deal. One can understand that they're hoping to attract younger patrons who might be able to afford full priced tickets as their earnings go up.

YPW, you're right. My mother loves to visit the parks but she is not very well off. She usually avoids all the parks except for the ones I work at so she can get in for free. She simply cannot afford the entrance fees. I know when she turns 62 she will be all over that pass so that she can get into the parks without me.

I consider the $80 pass to be too expensive. I'm also not very well off (lots of student loans!) and it is hard for me to afford that although I scrimp and save to do so. Even though it's only $30 per year difference I miss the old pass. I only visit parks and I perfered having the option to get an inter-agency pass instead of having to get it.

Ranger Holly

I remember that I was planning on a trip to Yosemite just after Christmas 2006. I didn't have any reservations, but that wasn't the peak season and finding a place to stay outside the park is easy. My employer shut down for a week and I had two full weeks off. It was going to be about playing and hiking in the snow.

Then I went down with cold symptoms that didn't improve for 10 days. By then it was too late. I wasn't able to schedule a trip until mid February. By then they'd switched over from the $50 National Parks Pass to the $80 America the Beautiful Pass. That was an additional $30 that didn't do me an good since only used it at NPS sites and I didn't use at all in the tail months of its validity. Now that I think of it, I probably could have saved $3 that I could have used to go to Muir Woods NM the same month, but I wasn't sure if my boss was going to approve my vacation. I did end up getting at least $80 worth out of it, with later trips to Yosemite and SEKI, as well as several NPS visits near home.

The $80 got my wife and myself to quite a few places over 13 months starting August 2008. We actually got to use it at Mt St Helens. Still - I thought the older "Golden Eagle" passes were only $65 with an option to buy a National Parks Pass and buy a $15 endorsement sticker that made it effective the same thing.

Your memory is spot on re the Golden Eagle Pass offering the same public lands access as the $80 ATB.

For what it's worth, there have been efforts in the Senate to restore the $50 National Parks Pass. Not sure how successful they'll be, however.

I think the $80.00 fee for an America The Beautiful pass is way too much. I had a National Parks pass just before the change and used it regularly mostly in national parks and monuments in Colorado. I very rarely use other agencies camping areas. I will wait until I turn 62 in 15 months and buy the permanent $10.00 senior pass. The age for the senior pass should also be lowered to between 55 and 60.

Sorry about all the typos and proofreading errors.

I would note that the standard $80 ATB beautiful pass doesn't give any amenities (camping, tours, boat launch, etc) discounts. It's only valid for entrance (and some use) fees. I thought that the same went for the older National Parks Pass or Golden Eagle passes.

I recall that the Senior Pass (or the older Golden Age pass) is only valid for US citizens or legal permanent residents. I've heard of foreign visitors 62 or older coming for extended trips, but who had to pay for the regular pass.

As for the regular passes, I think the key to maximizing validity is to get it on the first of the month, in which case it expires at the end of the same month in the next year. That would give up to 13 months use on the same annual pass.

There are some places that have specific passes. I think most NPS sites with entrance fees have their own annual passes that cost less than the full interagency pass. In Hawaii the only option short of the full interagency pass is the "Tri-Parks Pass" that's good for the three NPS sites in Hawaii with entrance fees.