The state of New York is home to 180 State Parks, making it the perfect place to explore all summer long.
You want the beach? We got that. You want the mountains, you got that.
You want the beach and the mountains at the same time? We got that too.
If you're like me, you want to see it all, but you don't want to pay for it every single time. I mean, let's be honest. Those parking and admission fees add up. And we don't need to be spending that kind of money.
But I've found a way around all those fees. It is called the Empire Pass, and it gives you unlimited admission to all the State Parks in New York State.
With the Empire Pass in hand, you'll be able to visit any of our beautiful state parks without worrying about how much it costs each time. And when we say “any,” we mean ANY park – from Niagara Falls to Montauk Point Lighthouse – there are over 180 different locations across the entire state that will welcome you with open arms (and free parking).
Are you excited about exploring New York State yet? I know I am. But first, let's talk about everything you need to know about the Empire Pass.
What is the Empire Pass?
The empire pass is an annual pass that provides unlimited vehicle entry into any state park in New York State. The Empire Pass is a wallet-size card that can be used by any member of your household to access over 180 state parks in New York State.
How much is an Empire Pass?
If you are interested in purchasing an Empire Pass, you have several options. You can get a pass for the 2022 season (ending December 2022) for $80. If you are an existing empire pass holder, you can receive a discount of up to $15 from the annual fee.
Can you get a Lifetime Empire Pass?
Yes, if you are interested in purchasing a lifetime empire pass, an option costs $750. The Lifetime Empire Pass is not refundable and not transferrable, and if it is lost, there is a fee to replace it.
If you frequent the New York State parks often, this lifetime pass will save money over the years. Even special I Love NY parks license plates that you can order that are only available to lifetime pass holders.
What do I get with my Empire Pass?
The Empire Pass gives you access to all of New York's State Parks and the Department of Environmental Conservation, including national forests, beaches, trails, and more. You can find a list of New York State Parks here and a list of Department of Environmental Conservation Parks here.
Multi-Year Empire Pass Card
If you are not ready for a lifetime membership but would like to save a little money, you can get a multi-year pass. You can get a 3-year pass for $205, which is a savings of over $11 per year. You can also get a 5-year pass for $320, which is a savings of $16 per year.
How do I renew my Empire Pass?
If you are a previous Empire Passport holder, you can be eligible for a renewal discount. Depending on how soon you renew your pass, you can save up to $15.
Empire pass renewals are available online here. You cannot renew a pass at park facilities. Card activation may take 24-48 hours.
Where can I purchase an Empire Pass?
There are several options for those looking to purchase an Empire Pass.
Purchasing an Empire Pass Online
You can purchase an Empire Pass Online here. You have the option to select a 1 year, 3-year, or 5-year pass, and you can order a lifetime pass here as well.
Purchase an Empire Pass In Person
Empire Passes are available for purchase at most New York State Park. You can go to your nearest state park to purchase your Empire Pass. However, keep in mind that you cannot renew an empire pass in person. Make sure to call ahead before heading out to ensure the Empire Pass is available.
Purchase an Empire Pass by Phone
You can purchase an empire pass by phone by calling the following phone 518-474-0458 during business hours.
Purchase an Empire Pass By Mail
The New York State Department accepts Empire Pass Applications by Mail. You can find the application here. Submit the application with a check or money order payable to “NYS Parks” and mail to:
New York State Parks
Albany, NY 12238
Whichever option you pick to purchase your Empire Pass, please remember that all Empire Pass card products are non-returnable and non-refundable after purchase.
Which New York State Parks accept the Empire Pass?
The Empire Pass is accepted at most New York State Parks. You can find a list of New York State Parks here and a list of Department of Environmental Conservation Parks here.
Is the Empire Pass worth it?
So is the Empire Pass worth it? The quick answer is yes. The wallet-sized card is your key to fun and adventure all year long. Here is a breakdown of where we have used the Empire Pass and our savings.
Niagra Falls-2 visits $20
Green Lakes-1 visit $8
Taughannock Falls -1 visit $8
Watkins Glen -1 visit $6
Hither Hills– 2 visits $20
Robert Moses– 4 visits $40
Wildwood– 2 visits $20
We have not included all the parks we have visited; however, this adds up to over $120. So that is already a $40 savings.
Depending on how often you expect to visit the parks, the Empire Pass Cards pay for themselves.
The Empire Pass is a great way to access all of New York's State Parks. You can purchase the pass online, in person, or by phone. The pass provides unlimited day-use entry to all state parks and will pay for itself after a few visits.
So which New York State Park will you be visiting first?