National Park Passport Stamps: The Ultimate Guide

Are you ready to turn your national park visits into memories? Then check out National Park Passport Stamps. Also called National Park Cancellation Stamps, this program is your way to collect unique souvenirs and chronicle your outdoor adventures (for free)!

Table of Contents

There are currently 429 National Park sites in the United States and there is at least one unique stamp for each of them that you can use to commemorate your visit. The ‘stamps’ are rubber ink stamps that have the name of the park, date and location. They resemble a visitation stamp used on international passports, which is why the program is called the Passport to Your National Parks

Stamp in book for George Washington Birthplace National Monument
George Washington Birthplace National Monument Stamp

Beyond the main stamp program, there are also special stamps that commemorative National Historical Trails, special anniversary stamps, along with stamps at National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, lighthouses, Junior Ranger, and other ‘bonus’ stamps that can be obtained. In all, there are over 8,000 different stamps to collect!

The History and Purpose of National Park Passport Stamps

Eastern National is a Non-profit organization founded in 1947 to help our National Park System and other public lands with educational products. The National Park Passport Stamp program was developed in 1986, to help their mission to promote visitation to our National Parks. Officially called the “Passport to Your National Parks” program, net proceeds help fund educational and interpretive programs at National Park Service sites. 

Why are National Park Passport Stamps called Cancellation Stamps?

The stamps resemble a cancellation stamp used on international passports, which is why the program is called the Passport to Your National Parks. That said, they don’t effectively cancel anything and are just a way to commemorate your visit to the park. International passport cancellation stamps usually render a passport invalid for future travel. 

It seems the use of the term ‘cancellation stamp’ was used as an analogy to international passport usage, but the exact origin is not entirely clear.  I tend to not use the ‘Cancellation’ term as it is a little confusing and frankly inaccurate.

Why Collect National Park Passport Stamps?

  • It is a fun way to document your National Park adventures and track your progress.
  • The act of collecting the stamps creates a personalized record of your travels and experiences.
  • Provides a deeper connection to our national park system and a its mission.
  • Collecting is fun!

Read more about our National Park Guides

Types of National Park Passports

Choosing the Right Passport:  Classic, Collector, Explorer or Junior Ranger?

These passport stamps are pretty neat, and now I want to start collecting them.  So, now what? Eastern National sells three ‘passport books’ that you can use as your own adventure journal, illustrating your journey and travels.

Blue Passport to your national Park book on wood table

Classic: The small blue version is by far the most popular. Pocket sized, perfect for dropping in a backpack or a pocket in your cargo pants, and full of information. Additional page inserts can be purchased as well, so you can cram a ton of stamps in this little book!

Collector: A larger spiral book that includes all the information in the blue classic book and more. It has a dedicated section for each park along with a place to up a special regional stamp sicker. 

Black cover Collector Edition Stamp book
black Explorer spiral Passport book, closed and open

Explorer: Is designed around a seven-ring binder and its own zip up case. The value with this book is in its flexibility, as you can buy inserts, or make your own pages to express your journey in your own way.

Junior Ranger: The Junior Ranger Passport Book is an interactive adventure guide for kids aged 5-12, packed with fun facts, activities, and colorful illustrations. There is a special Junior Ranger stamps at specific National Park Sites that can be used in this book.

Passport to your national park junior ranger edition book

Learn more about these books including a comparison chart on my article about the Best National Park Passport book.

Official National Park Passports vs. Third Party Alternatives; Understanding the difference

One thing to keep in mind is that there are key differences between the four official passports sold at Park visitor centers across the country and third-party books. You may find a 3rd party alternative on Amazon or another site that is unique and fits the style of your collecting, which is great. 

However, keep in mind that while there are a wide variety of options, the proceeds of these books do not contribute to park conservation or education programs. With the official passports you get high quality, consistency and the satisfaction with knowing you are supporting America’s National Park Service.

Explore Alternative Park Documentation Tools: Journals, Scratch off Maps/Posters, and More

Outside of the official passport books and third-party knockoffs, there are also several other options for personalizing your stamping collection and travelogue.

  • You can use a normal moleskin journal to not only record the stamp but also jot down your reflections, capturing the sights, sounds and emotions of your journey. Maybe even sketch a cool image.
  • Personalized stickers: If you have a color inkjet printer, use sticker sheets and print pictures of you in the national park or site.  You can then put the sticker in your journal or even in your national park passport.
  • There are several scratch-off interactive maps or posters that reveal visited parks, transforming them into visual trophies of your outdoor conquests. I have one poster and also a cool coffee mug.  Every time I am sipping my cup of joe, it reminds me of our travels.

Using Your National Park Passport

Getting Started: Where to buy your National Park Passport book

National Park Passport books can usually be found at National Park sites. The larger National Parks locations have larger gift shops and of course more options and accessories for you to purchase. If you are eager to start or need to prepare for a trip you can go to America’s National Parks on-line store and purchase all your supplies, there. This eStore is run by East National and is a non-profit organization where proceeds go to help information programs at National Park Sites

Where do you find the National Park Passport Stamps?

You can find a list of all the stamps that have been release by Eastern National by going to their web site.  It is a daunting list of 429 sites! Eastern National Stamp List.   

National Park System Detailed Map 2023

I would also suggest visiting and joining the National Parks Travelers Club. For only a few dollars a year you get access to the clubs Master Database, that is dutifully curated by the thousands of members to ensure accuracy. It is well worth the investment.

Additionally, the club provides access to tons of useful information, a yearly convention of like-minded ‘stampers’, and local meetups as well. Their active forum is also a way to get clarity from the wealth of knowledge and experience of the members.

Discover the Regions: How National Park Passport Stamps are Organized

Navigating your National Park Passport may seem daunting, but the stamp organization is fairly simple. Your passport is divided into nine regions, each with their own color. Find your desired park’s section, then locate the designated space for its unique stamp. 

North Atlantic RegionMid-Atlantic RegionNational Capital Region
Southeast RegionMidwest RegionSouthwest Region
Rocky Mountain RegionWestern RegionPacific Northwest and Alaska Region
Passport Stamp Regions
map of USA with geographical regions for passport stamps

Remember, some parks offer multiple stamps at different locations, so be sure to explore thoroughly and document your full park experience.

Recording Your Journey: Personalize Your Passport with Stickers

Passport to your national parks 2019 stamp series stickers

Since 1986, Eastern National has released a regional stamp set, which are a collection of colorful stickers with beautiful photographs that highlights one park for each of the nine regions, plus a larger National Stamp. These stickers have a special location in each of the three passport books that enhances the book with a collection of great photos and added information about the different parks. 

While certainly not necessary, it is a way to breathe some context and life into an otherwise stale set of pages. I use them in my Collector’s edition book, adding one for each park I visit.

Deep Dive into the National Park Stamps

Different Stamps:  National Park Sites, Lighthouse stamps, Special Bonus Stamps, etc.

The primary stamp offering is the National Park stamps, that can be found at each of the 429 parks sites in the United States, but there are other surprises on this journey. 

Bonus stamps can be found at some locations, some of which are quite unique. I enjoy finding these gems along my journey and look forward to seeing the collection growing. My favorite so far is the cute alligator from the Shark Valley Visitor center in the Everglades National Park.

Explore, Collect, Preserve: Lighthouse Passport Stamp Program

For avid collectors of National Park Passport stamps, you might have noticed intriguing lighthouses adorning some park sites. Did you know there’s an entire Lighthouse Passport Program supported by the United States Lighthouse Society?  

This program offers a dedicated passport book where you can document your collection.  With space for 60 stamps, it is a great way to memorialize your collection.  Importantly, they ask for a small $2 donation when you collect your stamp that directly supports lighthouse restoration and preservation projects. 

Check out my article that explores the stamps, benefits, and how you can contribute to preserving these maritime structures.

What to do if you are missing National Park passport stamps?

At the start of our stamping journey, we had already visited at least 14 different NPS properties in the past. Was there really a way I could travel back in time and get these stamps? The answer is of course, Yes!   

By sending personalized letters to the missing National Park Service sites with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE), we have been able to reach out and request these missing stamps. Imagine our delight when, after just two weeks, we received replies from five amazing locations! 

What was truly special was the response from FDR National Historic Site and Vanderbilt Mansion. Not only were they the quickest to respond, but they surprised us with a nice handwritten letter! They even apologized for some slightly “imperfect” stamps, which only makes them more charming. A simple letter, combined with pictures and genuine appreciation, can open doors and provide an even stronger connection to our National Parks.

Ready to send out your own letters? Here are some tips:

  • Personalize your letters to each park, mentioning specific things you enjoyed.
  • Include a few photos from your visit.
  • Include some passport stampable stickers, or an expander page.
  • Be polite and complimentary.
  • Don’t forget the SASE!

Essential Extras: 4 Travel Accessories to Complement Passport Stamp Collecting

To be fully prepared on your stamping escapades, I would suggest adding several items to your travel bag. These of course will depend on your collecting goals, where you are heading and how you travel.

Additional Page inserts:  Depending on which book you buy (see the list here), you can buy inserts that you can easily add to the book.  This is great if you want to just bring a page and not your entire book on a trip as well.

Expander pack for passport to your national parks classic and collector's edition
three round stampable stickers on one page vertically

Passport Stampable Stickers:  Another option is the stampable stickers. There are three round stickers that fit the stamps and can be easily carried. I usually have one with me just in case!

Baby wipes:  Sometimes the stamps can get gunked up and do not generate a clear stamp. Baby wipes are really good at cleaning the stamp so you can reapply the ink to get a crisp stamp.

Stamp pad and ink:  While it is not common, it can happen. You finish an awesome national park experience, and you find the stamp pad is dry as a bone.  Having your own stamp pad can avoid relying on a park ranger or shop employee. If you are really gung-ho, you can get a different color for each region.

Beyond Stamps

Responsible Park Exploration: Leave No Trace Principles

Whenever you visit a national park or other public land, a great thing to keep in mind is the Principle of Leave No Trace. My son’s Boy Scout Troop really helped reinforce this, not only to me but to our entire family. In following the principles, it can ensure that our parks remain as pristine as possible for everyone. Below are the key seven principles but you can learn more about Leave No Trace in this article.

Leave no trace logo
  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Remember, take only pictures and leave nothing but footprints!

child pointing at trail map at Smoky Mountain National Park

Expand your Park Experience:  Great Resources, Community groups and more

What are some of the best resources to tap into for an incredible park and Stamping experience?

The obvious choice is The National Park Service site. It full of great information and one of the best resources to help you plan National Park visits and find passport stamps. A must before making any visit, as operating times and access to certain locations can change seasonally.

Another key point, they consistently post up-to-date impacts to National Park sites impacted by local issues. Something as simple as an early closure due to a broken air conditioning unit on a hot summer day, or a road closure can be found.

Wooden hanging National Park Service sign

Another good choice is the America’s National Parks site. This non-profit runs the gift shops and stores at over 150 NPS locations. The proceeds support educational, interpretive, and preservation efforts at nearly 170 national parks. They are the ones who provide the National Park Cancellations stamps, and they keep a monthly list of all stamp locations.

The National Park Travelers Club is an amazing resource for any National Park Visitor. The club provides networking and resources to its members who are a dedicated group of National Park enthusiasts. For only a few dollars a year you get access to the club’s Master Database of the National Park cancellation stamps.

This is a great resource, which is dutifully curated by the thousands of members to ensure accuracy.  Joining the club gives you access to their forum which is a super way to gather a wealth of knowledge from other stamping enthusiasts.

Final Thoughts on National Park Passport Stamps

While collecting National Park Passport stamps gives you a sense of adventure and achievement, you really can get more out of it than you put in. Each park you visit, each stamp collected, gives you more information about our nation, the people, and their stories.

View of Gettysburg battlefield from observation stand across field
View of Gettysburg National Battlefield

The National Park Passport program isn’t just a collection of colorful souvenirs; it’s a way to expand your appreciation for all our national sites.

Start your Adventure Today

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your passport book, embark on your next national park adventure, and start collecting those stamps!

State Park Passport Stamp Programs

Looking something more than the National Park Passport program? Did you know that there are also Passport stamp programs in 25 U.S. States?

Here are the first three programs are on the list:

  • Arizona: Passport for Fun- A free passport book is available, and you can win a free Arizona state park annual pass as well!
  • Arkansas: Called Club 52 for the 52 park sites in the program. Arkansas offers a free stamp book as well.
  • California: Offers a digital app to allow you to track your progress to the largest number of state parks in the nations, 280.

See if your state is on the list:

Check out the Roaming Monk Blog to learn more about our journey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *