Get started using National Parks Passports to collect stamps and document your visits to America’s National Parks and other historical and scenic sites.
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National Parks Passports: My Not-So-Secret Obsession
Okay, I confess it’s an addiction. But as far as I know no one has ever gotten hurt in my pursuit of a fix.
I will admit that I may have encouraged an occasional road trip driver to flirt with the speed limit a time or two in order to reach a National Parks visitor center before their always-too-early closing time.
And yes, I have been known to beg a park ranger to let us in to grab a cancellation stamp after the doors have been locked and barred.
And I am guilty of trying to cram more National Park visits than humanly possible into a single day or extended road trip in order to collect as many stamps as possible.
I know, I know . . . .
I also fully understand that backroad trips are singular adventures that should unfold as you go, and that National Parks are meant to be savored and explored.
But yes, my compulsion has made me guilty of breaking these travel commandments for the thrill of a fresh rubber stamp.
I’m working on it . . . .
So what are these potentially-addictive National Parks Passports and stamps?
The Passport to Your National Parks program is run by America’s National Parks™, the same non-profit organization that operates bookstores in over 150 National Park visitor centers. The program was launched in 1986 to encourage visitation to all of America’s national parks and to allow visitors to keep a permanent visual record of their National Park visits.
I learned about National Parks Passport cancellation stamps ages ago, and I had even collected them on journal pages and National Park Unigrids (official NPS brochures) during my travels through the years.
But according to my earliest stamp (not including the older ones I glued in), I bought my first passport at Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina, while on a National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History teacher workshop day trip on August 5, 2009.
How can I be so precise in my recollections? It is because nothing has better recorded and proved my visits to these uniquely American sites than my National Park Passport.
So how do you get one of these legendary National Parks Passports?
Passports are available for purchase at America’s National Parks™ bookstores located in the visitor centers of National Parks across the country. For a few dollars you can pick up a passport and proceed to the stamping station to collect your first stamp(s).
You can also buy them online here, but then you will have to pay shipping & handling charges, and you will have to wait to collect your first stamp(s).
In addition to the basic passport, there are a couple of variations. The Kids’ Companion and the Explorer’s Edition are readily available in bookstores and online.
There are also several special editions. The 25th Anniversary edition, published in 2011, is a collectible now probably available only on eBay.
There is also a Civil War Handbook and Kids’ Passport Companion.
As a Civil War buff, I especially enjoy collecting cancellations in this beautiful supplement.
The large spiral-bound Passport to Your National Parks Collector’s Edition was published in 2016. Because my original passport was getting full, I purchased one of these and absolutely love it!
The free official NPS mobile app places a wealth of National Parks information at your fingertips, including passport stamp locations.
In my opinion, stamp cancellations collected in a National Parks Passport are the cheapest and most memorable souvenirs available.
Although he does not share my manic obsession with collecting stamps, my friend Jerry understands and enjoys having a record of his National Park visits. Ask him about the time I could not find my passport and thought we had accidentally thrown it away at a gas station. I made him turn the car around and drive back to the RaceTrac in Jasper, Georgia, and watch me unashamedly plunder a garbage can in front of God and everybody.
How’s that for an addiction-induced behavior?
For this reason, I no longer carry my NPS passports with me when I travel. I collect stamp cancellations on scraps of paper and glue them in when I return home. America’s National Parks™ sells stampable sticker sets that I think are a bit overpriced. You could probably find similar labels for a better price at an office supply store or online.
If you would like to meet almost 7,000 National Parks Passport stampers who are even more obsessively addicted to this pursuit than I am, check out the National Park Travelers Club for the inside scoop on rare cancellations, master lists and maps, and even national conventions!
Be sure to let us know when you get your National Parks Passport and tell us how collecting stamps became an obsession for you, too . . . .
I Would Love to Hear From You
I enjoy dialogue with Backroad Planet readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Do you have a National Parks Passport? If so, I would love to hear about your stamp collecting experiences. I invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and I always respond!