If you have visited an NPS gift shop you have probably seen people stamping their blue passport books or maybe even a piece of paper. What exactly is it they are stamping? In addition, you have more than likely seen the display for the Passport to Your National Parks. Are you wondering what the stamp says? Or, maybe you are wondering what an NPS Passport is. Well, we are here to answer all your questions regarding the National Park Passport book. Learn why believe this is the best National Park souvenir.
To learn all about the National Park System be sure to check out our National Parks for Beginners page.
What is the National Park Passport Book?
In 1986 the non-profit organization Eastern National created the program Passport to Your National Parks.
The national parks passport is a small book that has pages where you 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.
Each cancellation stamp is much like stamps in a conventional passport. These free stamps can be found at ranger stations and visitor centers throughout the National Park system. They are unique to the location and will stamp the date of your visit as well.
Why All National Park Visitors Need One
There are several really good reasons why you should get one.
Most importantly it serves as a permanent reminder of where you’ve been, and when. Later on, it may be difficult to remember what time of year you visited a particular National Park, or even just keep track of which ones you’ve been to.! In addition to regular cancellation stamps, from time to time there are also special event stamps.
- National Parks Passports are compact. These booklets fit in carry-ons or hiking backpacks, making them easy to bring along on every trip.
- Stamps for your passport are free. This makes for a great low-cost and budget-friendly souvenir that you can use for years to come.
- Collecting passport stamps is minimalist. By using one passport book to collect souvenirs for dozens of parks, you’re able to reduce your consumption of other souvenirs. In turn, this decreases clutter around the house and keeps more goods out of landfills each year.
- Parks offer special stamps. For special occasions, anniversaries, or historical events, parks will offer limited edition stamps. This is the perfect way to remember your special trip.
Which Passport Book is Best For You
Passport Classic Edition
The Classic Edition is the basic passport and is probably the one that most people buy, or at least start with.
This 6″ x 4″ softcover, spiral-bound classic passport has 112 pages and is small enough to fit in your pocket. Despite its size, we find that it is well made and durable so it’s easy to through in your backpack without worrying. It comes with a folding map of all the National Park Units and is split up into nine color-coded regions, making it easy to use.
The pages contain space for cancellation stamps as well as stickers you can buy at National Park gift stores.
Passport Collector’s Edition
Another option is the Passport Collector’s Edition. The Collectors Edition is a 7½” x 10″ hardcover spiral-bound book with 192 pages. This one won’t fit in your pocket.
It has a dedicated space for one cancellation stamp and one sticker per National Park Service Unit. Not just the National Parks, but all the units – National Monuments, National Historical Parks, and the rest! Each entry is accompanied by a brief summary of what you can expect when you visit.
For us, the Classic Edition has worked perfectly. It is easy to store, and carry, and has plenty of room for stamps.
In addition to these two passport books, there are a number of different-sized passport books and accessories. This can all be found on the Americas National Parks website. Of course, you can also purchase one at just about an NPS location.
What are Cancellation Stamps?
The national park passport stamps are known as cancellation stamps. Each one is a small, round, ink-based stamp. They are similar to cancellation stamps applied on top of postage stamps by the postal service.
At the beginning of each section of the Passport Book, you will find a map of the region and all the park locations within it. The cancelation stamps are color-coordinated to match the color of the NPS region it is found in.
At each national park visitor center (and some ranger stations), you’ll find a station with stamping devices and ink pads. It is here you can apply the cancellation stamp to your Passport Book. Fortunately, America’s National Parks website has a downloadable list of all cancellation locations.
What To Do If You Forgot Your National Park Passport Book
Maybe you left your passport book at home, or perhaps you chose not to bring it on a long hike, or maybe it was an unplanned stop. Don’t worry they are a plan for this at most NPS locations.
At many National Park Units, there’s often a stack of small paper squares nearby that you can stamp, and then glue into your National Park Passport later on. We’ve done it a few times ourselves!
Another great option is to put the stamp on the National Park pamphlet and map that you can pick up in most National Park locations. A lot of people choose to collect these, and the stamp is a great way to record exactly when you visited.
The National Park Passport program is a great way to create memories at NPS locations. Collecting cancellation stamps in our National Park Passport is almost always the first thing we do when arriving at a new National Park Unit.
We believe this is a great souvenir of our visit to the NPS locations. The book is small, and all of our stops are collected in one spot. In addition, each collection stamp is dated to remind you of when you were there.
We love to hear from our followers. Do you collect National Passport Cancellation Stamps? Which book do you use to collect them? What is your favorite stamp? Do you have any tips regarding the National Park Passport program?