Photo montage showing kayaker on water, mother and three children around a campfire, two girls wearing life jackets on a boat. Landscape photo at sunset with mountains in foreground and background, river running through Photo montage showing hikers on paved road with brown wild grass nearby, group of children on mountain overlook with mountains and river in distance, two women and two men hiking through forest. Landscape photo of Eastern Washington with lake in front, tree in campground and sparsely covered mountains in background Photo montage showing aerial photo of forested land with river running through, man and woman hiking down a trail, three horseback riders on trail. Landscape photo of shoreline with cabins in front and forested area in background

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: Dec. 6, 2012

photos of wild sunflowers at Columbia Hills State Park


What is the Discover Pass?

Q. What is the Discover Pass?
A. The Discover Pass is a vehicle-access pass that allows you to enjoy millions of acres of Washington state-managed recreation lands—including campgrounds, parks, wildlife areas, trails, natural areas, wilderness areas and water-access points. The Discover Pass was created by the 2011 Legislature as a solution to keep state recreation lands open. Revenue from the Discover Pass is intended to replace general fund tax money no longer available to cover the costs to operate state-managed recreation lands.



Buying the Discover Pass

Q. Where can I purchase the Discover Pass?

A. You have several options for purchasing a pass:

  1. In person at any of nearly 600 sporting goods or other retail stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses.
  2. In person at State Parks headquarters and region offices and in state parks as staff is available. One-day passes also may be purchased at payment stations available at state parks.
  3. Online through WDFW's online recreational licensing system.
  4. By phone at (866) 320-9933.
  5. When you renew your vehicle license. (Your pass will be mailed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and should arrive between 7 to 10 business days of the purchase date.)

Q. How much does the Discover Pass cost?
A. An annual Discover Pass purchased from a recreational license dealer, by phone or online costs $35, which includes the $30 base fee, a 10 percent transaction fee and a $2 dealer fee. A one-day Discover Pass costs $11.50, which includes the $10 base fee, a 10 percent transaction fee and a 50-cent dealer fee. The annual pass is good for one year.

Q. Can I select the date my Discover Pass starts?
A. Yes! The "choose your date" option is available when you purchase a Discover Pass online and at retail vendors that sell hunting and fishing licenses. At the time of purchase, you can activate the pass immediately or on any day within one year of the purchase date. This feature is ONLY available when purchasing the pass online and at retail vendors. You must pick your activation date at the time of purchase. When purchasing online, please allow 10 days for mailing when you select a future start date.

Q. Is a Family Discover Pass available?
A. Not at this time. The changes to the Discover Pass legislation in March 2012 gave the option of establishing a Family Discover Pass that is fully transferable. The agencies are currently working on implementation issues for such a pass.

Q. Why are transaction and dealer fees charged to purchase a Discover Pass?
A. The Discover Pass is sold through 600 retail stores, online and by phone, using the automated licensing system that also sells Washington sport fishing and hunting licenses. The 10 percent transaction fee on each purchase pays for computer system development and maintenance, dealer sales terminals and supplies, customer service, dealer training and support, financial accounting and reporting of sales transactions. The $2 dealer fee on each transaction is paid to retail outlets that sell the Discover Pass or to offset the costs associated with Internet and telephone sales, including processing of credit card sales, postage and staff time to print and mail the pass documents to those who have purchased the pass online or by phone.

The Discover Pass also is available for purchase during regular business hours at State Parks headquarters and region offices and at parks as staff are available. The one-day pass also can be purchased at unstaffed payment stations at state parks. Vehicle owners also can purchase the Discover Pass when renewing license tabs through the Department of Licensing. Passes purchased through state parks do not include transaction and dealer fees. Passes purchased by credit or debit card through DOL subagents may have bank charges added.

Q. What if I visit a Washington state recreation land and don’t have the Discover Pass?
A. You may go to the nearest retail business that sells hunting and fishing licenses to purchase the pass. For vendor locations, visit online or call toll-free at (866) 320-9933.

Q. Will people from out of state need to purchase a pass?
A. Yes

Q. How long is my Discover Pass valid?
A. The annual pass is good for one year (365 days) from the date of issue.

Q. If I order my Discover Pass online or by phone, how long will it take to receive my Discover Pass in the mail?
A. Annual Discover Passes: Your order should arrive within 7 to 10 business days. In addition, you may print a temporary 10-day pass at the time of purchase from the website or from your email if you provide an email address at the time of purchase. A Discover Pass not received in the mail must be reported within 30 days of the purchase date. Contact customer service at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov. Be sure to provide your first and last name, and phone number. Replacement fees may apply after 30 days.

One-Day Discover Pass: These passes are not mailed out; you must print it. You must print your one-day pass at the time of purchase OR provide your email address when making your purchase. The one-day pass will be sent via email, which will allow printing at a later time/date.

Q. What do I do if I have a technical problem with my online purchase or have a complaint or suggestion to improve services?
A. Please call the Department of Fish and Wildlife at (866) 320-9933 or e-mail the Department of Fish and Wildlife at licensing@dfw.wa.gov. Provide your contact information, including first and last name and your phone number. A customer service representative will assist you with your questions and concerns.



State Parks free days

Washington State Parks has announced the following "free days," when the Discover Pass will not be required to visit a state park.

2014 State Parks free days:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – In honor of Martin Luther King Day
  • March 19 – In honor of Washington State Parks' 101st birthday
  • April 19 – A spring Saturday free day
  • April 22 – Earth Day
  • May 11 – A spring Sunday free day
  • June 7 and 8 – In honor of National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11 – Veteran's Day weekend

A Discover Pass will still be required on these days to access lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.



Refunds

Q. What if I decide I don’t need or don’t want the Discover Pass after I’ve purchased it?
A. You may request a refund within 60 minutes of purchasing a pass through the WDFW dealer where you purchased the pass. For more information, contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.

If you purchased the pass directly from State Parks you may request a refund at the location where you purchased the pass within 30 minutes of your purchase.

Q. What if I purchased a Discover Pass and then realized I didn’t need it because I qualify for an exemption through a State Parks pass program? (Such as disabled veterans, senior citizens, etc.)
A. Call the Washington State Parks Information Center in Olympia at (360) 902-8844.

Q. I’m in the military. What if I purchase a Discover Pass and then find out I will be deployed within a year of purchasing the pass?
A. Please contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.



Replacing the Discover Pass

Q. What if I order a pass online, by phone, or through the Department of Licensing vehicle license renewal, and I don’t receive one in the mail?
A. If you did not receive your Discover Pass in the mail, it must be reported within 30 days from the date of purchase. Replacement fees may apply after 30 days. Contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.

Q. Can I get a replacement for my Discover Pass if it fades or is lost?
A. You may request a new pass if your Discover Pass fades, is damaged, or is otherwise unreadable. We cannot replace lost or stolen passes. To request a replacement Discover Pass, contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.

Please note: The issue date and the license plate number must be legible on the faded pass.

Q. May I receive a replacement Discover Pass if my license plate changes?
A. Yes. You may request a replacement pass when DOL issues you a new license plate, your license plate is damaged or you order new vanity plates. For more information and instructions on what documentation is required, please contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.

Q. May I receive a replacement Discover Pass when I sell my vehicle and buy a new vehicle?
A. Yes. You may request a replacement pass for your new vehicle when you sell your current vehicle. Contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.

Q. Can I receive a replacement Discover Pass if the license plate number is incorrect on my current pass?
A. Yes. You may request a replacement pass within 14 days from the date of purchase. For information on reissuing requirements and instructions please contact the toll-free, 24-hour Customer Service Center at (866) 320-9933 or licensing@dfw.wa.gov.

Q. When will I receive a replacement pass?
A. Temporary passes will be issued by fax or e-mail within a day, depending on when you made your request. Your permanent replacement pass will be sent to you by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and should arrive within 5 to 7 business days of the date your request was processed.



Using the Discover Pass

Graphic showing Discover Pass hanging from rear-view mirror of car.

Q. Where should I display the Discover Pass?
A. The Discover Pass must be visible in the front windshield of motor vehicles licensed for street use. For vehicles without a windshield, the pass must be displayed in a prominent location on the vehicle. Motorcycle riders may carry the pass with them.

Q. Can I transfer one Discover Pass between two vehicles?
A. Yes, the annual Discover Pass is now transferable between two vehicles. For passes already printed, use ink to legibly write in a second license number, either in the license plate box or in a blank spot on the front of the pass. In the future, passes will be printed with two lines for license numbers. The pass is still only good for one vehicle at a time.

Q. What do I do if I already own a Discover Pass with only one license number on it?
A. It can now be used with two vehicles. Use ink to legibly write in a second license number, either in the license plate box or in a blank spot on the front of the pass. The pass is still only good for one vehicle at a time.

Q. What is the penalty for not having a Discover Pass on my vehicle?
A. The penalty is $99. This penalty is reduced to $59 if an individual provides proof of purchase of the Discover Pass to the court within 15 days after the notice of violation.



Who needs the Discover Pass?

Q. Who needs to purchase the Discover Pass?
A. The Discover Pass is required for access with street-legal motor vehicles. Some exemptions apply. A list of exemptions from Discover Pass requirements is posted on the Exemptions page on the Discover Pass website.



Where will I need the Discover Pass?

Q. Where will I need a Discover Pass?
A. The pass is required on state recreation lands and water-access sites managed by Washington State Parks (State Parks), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These lands include state parks, water-access points, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, DNR and WDFW campgrounds, trails and trailheads and all DNR managed uplands (natural areas and trustlands, but not aquatic lands.

Q. If I am gathering mushrooms, berries or firewood for my personal use or doing other dispersed recreation activities such as geocaching, driving forest roads, bird watching, etc., do I still need to purchase an access pass?
A. Yes. All street-licensed vehicles will need a Discover Pass to access state recreation lands managed by the agencies.

Q. Do I need a Discover Pass if I access state recreation lands by foot, horse, bicycle, boat, skateboard, etc.?
A. No. The Discover Pass is a motor vehicle permit and is only required for street-legal motor vehicles to access state-managed recreation lands. It is not required for access using other forms of transportation, such as bicycles, boats, horses or on foot. However, if motor vehicles are used to transport or tow boats, bicycles, horses, etc., the motor vehicle must display the pass. Boaters will still need to pay any moorage and boat pumping fees.

Q. Will I need a Discover Pass to drive on ocean beaches for clam digging or other recreation?
A. You will not need a Discover Pass to access the beach or to drive or park on the beach. However, you will need a Discover Pass to park in any developed State Parks parking areas upland from the beach.

Q. If I pay to have an extra overnight vehicle while camping in a state park, will I also need the Discover Pass?
A. No. An easy way to think about this is that in State Parks the Discover Pass is for day visits. State Parks daytime hours end at dusk. Registered campers and others with paid overnight stays in State Parks do not need to have the Discover Pass. They simply display their camping registration on their dashboard.

The extra overnight vehicle fee in State Parks is associated only with camping stays. If you are camping, your registration includes a single motor vehicle for tent campers, or in the case of RV camping, the RV and a towed vehicle. Owners of any extra vehicles associated with the overnight stay in a state park campsite pay a $10 extra overnight vehicle fee. If you bring your RV in and drive a second vehicle in for your camping stay, then you pay the extra overnight vehicle fee. This is a long-standing practice and a way to mitigate the impact that additional vehicles have on natural resources in the campgrounds.

Q. If I have the Discover Pass, will I have to pay the extra overnight vehicle fee?
A. Yes. The extra overnight vehicle fee applies only to extra vehicles parked overnight in state park campgrounds. The Discover Pass is needed by daytime visitors.

Q. If I have an annual State Parks watercraft launch permit (Natural Investment Permit), will I need to have the Discover Pass?
A. No, if you have an annual Natural Investment Permit, you do not need the Discover Pass to access state parks, however, you will still need the Discover Pass to access lands managed by DNR and WDFW.

Q. If I rent a day-use facility in a state park for a family event such as a wedding or family reunion, or if I attend a community event or festival, will I need to have a Discover Pass?
A. The annual Discover Pass or one-day pass is required for those attending most events in state parks. You may work with park managers to discuss pre-sale or bulk purchase of passes to streamline logistics at events. In unusual circumstances, payments in lieu of Discover Passes may be negotiated. For questions, contact park managers.

Q. Can I use my federal recreation pass to access Washington state recreation lands?
A. No. The federal pass allows access to National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The passes cannot be used for recreation access to state-managed recreation lands.



Winter Recreation

Q. Will I need a Discover Pass or a Sno-Park Permit to visit winter recreation areas on state-managed lands?
A. In some cases you will need both. For specifics, visit the Washington State Parks winter recreation web page or view a chart that illustrates the winter recreation requirements.



Revenue Information

Q. Which agencies receive the money from the Discover Pass fee?
A. The revenue will be shared among the three agencies as follows:

  • 84 percent to State Parks
  • 8 percent Fish and Wildlife
  • 8 percent Department of Natural Resources

Revenue from the Discover Pass is needed to make up the loss of general fund money that had historically been available for recreation on state lands. The state budget for the next two years (2011-2013 biennium) has almost no general fund dollars (tax revenue) for recreation on state lands. Revenues from the pass go to each agency in the proportion needed for general fund replacement.

Q. Will all of the revenue from the Discover Pass be used for recreation on state lands?
A. Yes. Revenue will be used for the purpose of operating and maintaining recreation lands and facilities. Legislation requires that all revenue received from the sales of the Discover Pass go directly into the Recreation Access Pass Account.

Q. How can I be assured that the funds will be used to support recreation?
A. The purpose of the legislation is to provide operating funds in place of the general fund tax dollars no longer available for recreation. The operating philosophy of the legislation is that it is fair to ask those who use state recreation lands to pay for them directly. All of the revenue from the Discover Pass goes toward providing recreation access on state recreation lands.

Q. Why do we need another fee when we are already paying for recreation access through taxes to the state?
A. The state budget deficit continues to grow, in large part, because of the recession and resulting decreasing revenue from taxes. The 2011-2013 biennial state budget eliminates nearly all state general fund support to operate and maintain state lands for recreation. Without funding from the Discover Pass, state natural resource agencies would be forced to make sharp reductions in services, including swinging gates shut on parks and closing entire recreation areas, as many other states have done with their recreation lands.



Volunteers

Q. Can volunteers obtain a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. Yes. Volunteers who work 24 hours on agency-approved projects can earn a complimentary annual pass. Each agency must provide vouchers to volunteers, recording the number of hours they worked on each project. Volunteers can redeem the voucher for the annual Discover Pass. The three agencies have developed policies for the complimentary Discover Pass, such as where and how volunteers get vouchers, what constitutes an agency-approved project and where people can go to redeem their vouchers.

Q. Who is eligible to earn a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. Participants must be approved, registered volunteers who have completed any and all required training and work on agency-approved projects.

Q. What training is required?
A. The agency conducting the volunteer event will determine what kind of training, if any, is required.

Q. How do I get a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. Each eligible volunteer may receive one complimentary Discover Pass by participating in 24 hours of work on eligible volunteer projects and providing documentation of participation on Volunteer Vouchers provided by the agencies.

Q. How many complimentary Discover Passes can I earn?
A. One complimentary Discover Pass will be issued to an eligible volunteer in any 12-month period.

Q. What volunteer projects are considered eligible for the Discover Pass?
A. Together, the three agencies have developed general criteria for volunteer and project eligibility. In addition, each agency is developing specific criteria for its volunteer program.

Q. Do I need to purchase a Discover Pass, or a WDFW Vehicle Access Pass (where applicable) to access state recreation lands while participating in eligible volunteer projects?
No. Volunteers will be provided with a "business only" temporary pass on the day of a scheduled volunteer event, which will allow them access for that day.

Q. What are Volunteer Vouchers and how do I get them?
A. Whenever you participate in a Discover Pass-eligible volunteer project or event, you may request a Volunteer Voucher from agency staff. The voucher documents participation and the number of hours worked.

Q. Who tracks and maintain my Volunteer Vouchers until I am ready to redeem them for a pass?
A. As a volunteer, you are responsible for filling out and maintaining your Volunteer Voucher for each eligible project in which you participate. Agency staff will sign your completed Vouchers. Once you’ve accumulated 24 hours, you may redeem the vouchers for a complimentary pass.

Q. How do I redeem Volunteer Vouchers for a complimentary pass?
A. To receive your complimentary Discover Pass, follow the instructions indicated on the vouchers. Your Discover Pass will be mailed to you at the address you provide on your vouchers.

Q. Can I accrue volunteer hours from different agencies?
A. Yes. You may earn a complimentary Discover Pass by accruing eligible volunteer hours from one or all of the agencies—Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Q. Can I combine my eligible volunteer hours/vouchers with another person, friend or family member and submit them for a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. No. Each individual must accrue at least 24 eligible hours to qualify for a complimentary pass.

Q. Can volunteers who receive anything in exchange for services, such as campground hosting (free campsite/utilities) or participating in WDFW’s Master Hunter Program (special hunting access), get a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. No. The hours of service in volunteer positions that already receive something in exchange for volunteer time are not counted toward a complimentary Discover Pass.

Q. Once I have received my first complimentary Discover Pass, can I continue to earn and save hours to exchange for additional Discover Passes?
A. Yes, you may continue to earn and save hours. You may receive only one complimentary Discover Pass per 12-month period, so any additional hours will go towards a future complimentary Discover Pass. You are required to keep track of your own hours and submit them each year.

Q. Do volunteer hours donated to fulfill requirements for purposes outside of State Parks, DNR, or WDFW count towards a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. No. Volunteer hours donated to fulfill requirements for outside purposes such as school credits, graduation, or court-ordered community service are not eligible.

Q. Where can I get information about eligible volunteer projects that count toward a complimentary Discover Pass?
A. More information is available at:

  • Washington State Parks information center — (360) 902-8844.
  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife — www.wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer. Discover Pass eligible projects will be identified in project descriptions.
  • Washington State Department of Natural Resources — www.dnr.wa.gov/volunteer. (Follow the link to the volunteer calendar.)


Exemptions to the Discover Pass requirement

Q. Are there exemptions to the Discover Pass requirement?
A. Yes. You may find a list of exemptions on the Discover Pass website.



More information

Q. Where can I get more information about the Discover Pass?
A. You may send an e-mail to licensing@dfw.wa.gov or call toll-free (866) 320-9933. Additional information will be added to this website as it becomes available.