Washington State has some of most scenic and incredible outdoor recreation destinations in the country. From insanely gorgeous rivers and waterfalls, to iconic mountains and breathtaking coastlines, we have a plethora of places that should be explored with our friends and families each year. But, while the idea of getting outdoors is simple, knowing what permit is needed to go explore the region can be tricky.

We’re here to help you wade through the red tape and navigate this labyrinth of fees so you can have the best outdoor adventure possible. Whether you stick to Lewis County or decide to explore all around the Evergreen State, this guide will ensure you always have the right permit for your adventure.

For most adventures around Washington State Parks and DNR lands, you will need the Discover Pass. The Discover Pass is $35 annually and covers all state-managed land. This includes entry to over 100 developed state parks and 350+ primitive recreation sites, including campgrounds and picnic areas. It also includes nearly 700 water-access points and nearly 2,000 miles of designated water and land recreation trails. It covers access into more than 80 natural areas and 30 wildlife areas!

By purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass and the Discover Pass, all public lands in Washington are open for you! Photo courtesy: National Park Service.

Of course, if you’re only going once a year, you could just get a day pass for under $12. Remember that the annual Discover Pass is transferable between two vehicles, but the pass can only be used on one vehicle at a time. You can also purchase your pass online or add it to your car tab renewal. For only $35 a year, this is an amazing deal for those who get out to state-managed lands often.

For those who enjoy going to National Forests, consider picking up a Northwest Forest Pass.

It’s $30 annually and is honored at all Forest Service operated recreation sites in Washington and Oregon where a day use fee is required. This annual permit, or a $5 daypass, can be picked up from any National Forest Service office or you can buy them online. The pass allows the holder and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle to use the recreation facilities.

See sights like Silver Falls with the right permit. Photo courtesy: Stephan Smith.

What makes this pass cool is that it’s interchangeable between vehicles in the same household. Here is a full list of locations the Northwest Forest Pass covers in Washington and Oregon. While this pass is great, read on and see how you can maximize your purchase by picking up a different permit that covers National Forests and more!

For those hoping to explore the National Parks of the region, you have a couple of options. You can either pick up a day pass or an annual pass for the specific National Park you are visiting at the entrance gate, or you can purchase the “America the Beautiful” pass, which we will discuss in the next paragraph. At Mount Rainier National Park here in Lewis County and out in Olympic National Park, the cost to enter the park depends on how long you plan on visiting. Day passes, which actually last 15 days, cost $30 per vehicle, while the annual pass to each individual park is $55.

If you plan on visiting more than one park this next calendar year, the best bang for your buck is to pick up the aforementioned America the Beautiful Pass. For just $80, you get 12 months of unlimited entry to all National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and more!

With an America the Beautiful pass, you can visit Rainier and all other federal lands for just one fee. Photo courtesy: The Outdoor Society.

There are countless reasons why getting an America the Beautiful pass is the best deal, including discounted camping rates. This is an amazing buy that takes away any worry about fees on Federally managed public lands. The best part about this pass is that you don’t have to drive to the park to get one. Sold at REI, you can pick up your gear and your America the Beautiful pass in one trip.

If you don’t want to manage a ton of passes, we have a simple solution for you that will save you the most money. We highly recommend picking up both the America the Beautiful Pass and the Washington State Discover Pass – the only two you need for all your public lands adventures. With both passes, you’ll have access to National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, Washington State Parks, and Washington DNR Lands. The cost for both is $115 a year, roughly $16 less than an annual standard subscription to Netflix or the cost of 23 special drinks at Starbucks. It’s hard to beat that price for so much adventure! 

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