National Park Price Increases On The Horizon?

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The National Park Service has proposed a targeted increase in entrance fees at 17 of the most highly visited national parks, including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone. The increases will only occur during peak season which will be defined “as its busiest contiguous five month period of visitation.” During a five-month peak-season at each of the 17 parks, the entrance fee would be $70 per vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person. This is a large hike from the current rate of $25 to $30 for private vehicle entrance.

Here are some examples of the proposed peak seasons:

  • May 1-September 30 for Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Denali National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Zion National Park
  • June 1-October 31 for Acadia National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Shenandoah National Park
  • January 1-May 31 for Joshua Tree National Park

The following parks would be affected:

  • Arches
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Canyonlands
  • Denali
  • Glacier
  • Grand Canyon
  • Grand Teton
  • Olympic
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon
  • Yellowstone
  • Yosemite
  • Zion
  • Acadia
  • Mount Rainier
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Shenandoah
  • Joshua Tree

The price increases are said to be put into place to cover infrastructure improvement. They estimate that they could pull in an additional $70,000,000 per year. These funds could go towards improving roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms and other visitor services at the parks. Most of the entrance fees will be for expenses in that specific park since under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, 80% of an entrance fee remains in the park where it is collected. The other 20% is spent on projects in other national parks.

Annual passes not changing

The good news is that the cost for America the Beautiful- The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass would remain at $80 so if this price hike does occur, getting the annual pass will make the most sense for a lot of people visiting these parks during peak season. Annual passes give you access to all of the federal lands including places like national monuments for a year.

The NPS is allowing the public to voice their opinions of the changes online.

To comment use the “Document List” or “Open For Comment” project links in the left side navigation menu. Open the document and use the “Comment Now” button. Comments will also be accepted in writing. To submit written comments, mail comments to National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

My take

Personally, I hate to see these parks getting so much more expensive to visit but at the end of the day, I’d rather have parks with adequate infrastructure so that they can be safely and pleasantly visited throughout the year and not shut down, inaccessible, etc. Plus, the NPS is good about offering free days throughout the year so I can’t say that I’m opposed to the fee increases if it means being able to preserve our parks in the future. It’s also good to remember that the majority of national parks will remain free to enter and only 118 of 417 park sites charge an entrance fee.

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