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Summer fun

Veterans save on access to parks, campgrounds across country

Enjoy all the benefits of camping this summer. Photo credit: VA News

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Summer is officially upon us, and for some that means hitting the beach or going on a dream vacation to Europe. But if you would rather put on your hiking boots than have your feet in the sand or gaze at the mountainside instead of the streets of Monte Carlo, the great outdoors offers unique benefits.

Getting outside and connecting with nature has demonstrable health benefits beyond just getting away from the office. In fact, a 2015 study found that outdoor recreation can help veterans with social reconnection, life-improving change, inner peace and psychological healing. Whether you opt for a peaceful tent-stay under the stars or an extended scenic adventure, as a veteran you and your family have many options to save when planning your next expedition.

National and State Park passes

The U.S. contains some of the most beautiful natural areas in the world. Through the national and state park systems, one can experience the wonders that have inspired authors and artists for over a century.

In 2022, the U.S. National Park Service unveiled a lifetime pass for veterans and Gold Star families that provides free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests. The pass also provides discounts on expanded amenities such as camping and guided tours. Learn more and get your lifetime pass here.

State operated parks also offer free passes and discounts for veterans and their families. Though the military service and state residency requirements vary state to state, the website U.S. Veteran Camper has compiled a detailed listing of programs offered by each state here.

Military campgrounds

The Department of Defense operates campgrounds and recreational vehicle (RV) sites throughout the country on military installations and off-post recreation areas. These sites are open to active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retirees and DoD civilians. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act also allowed access to DoD campgrounds to veterans with a service-connected disability. These veterans may present their Veterans Health Identification Card for entrance to the installation.

While camping fees may apply, campers receive the benefits of access to other installation facilities, such as the commissary, post exchange and movie theater. Use this state-by-state search tool to find a military campground near you and learn more about their fees and entry policies:

Commercial campground and camping accessory discounts

Many military and veteran discounts are also available for stays at commercial campgrounds and parks. Save up to 20% on stays nationwide at these three resorts:

Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park. Jellystone Park offers cabins, tent camping and RV sites at over 75 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Active duty and retired military save 10% year-round and 50% off on Veterans Day stays between Nov. 5-12, 2023.

Encore and Thousand Trails RV Resorts. Over 200 RV resorts and campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada exist within Encore and Thousand Oaks network. Active-duty and retired military save 20% off nightly rates up to six nights.

Sun Outdoors. A variety of resort and campground experiences from off-the-grid camping to RV sites and age 55+ communities are offered in the Sun Outdoor network with locations across 28 states. Active-duty military and veterans save 20% on select RV, tent and vacation rental sites.

For the equipment, you will need to make the most of your camping experience, visit these stores for military and veteran discounts:

Campmor. 10% off camping clothing and equipment for active-duty, veterans and government employees with verification.

E-Z Up. 30% off tents, chairs and lighting accessories for active-duty, Guard, Reserve, veterans and government employees.

Moosejaw. 20% off a variety of outdoor clothing and camping accessories for active-duty, retirees and veterans with verification.

Yeti. 20% online on coolers, drinkware and outdoor living items for active-duty, Guard, Reserve and veterans with verification.

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