The National Park Service announced a proposal in October to increase the admission prices for 17 national parks during their busiest five months of the year.
Entrance fees during peak season, which varies but is May 1 to September 30 for most parks, would rise to $70 per private, commercial vehicles, $50 per motorcycles and $30 per person on bike or foot. The increase would be nearly three times the current rate for some parks. Entry and fee adjustments for commercial tour operators have also been proposed. The NPS would offer a park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks for $75.
To show how much the proposed changes would cost you, MapBox created an interactive that allows you to calculate the estimated cost for a specific trip:
One price that won’t change? The $80 annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which allows access to all national parks and more than 1,000 other federal recreation areas for one year. (It’s a terrific deal, and you can purchase one here.)
The reason for the potential increase to the regular entrance fee, according to NPS, is to address a backlog of park maintenance, including “roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services.” The number of people visiting national parks is at an all-time high, which isn’t helping the maintenance situation. The entire park system saw a record 330 million visitors in 2016.
Some of the most visited parks, including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain National Parks, are targeted for the proposed fee increases. In many parks, a single entrance fee grants access for seven days, while other parks have options for one day or seven day passes.
Park lovers seem to be split on this news. Many are upset by the increase, but others support it. I shared the press release in the public Facebook group for fans of the National Park Service, and the post received more than 41 comments in less than an hour.
Karen W. writes that she’s fine with proposed fees. “It is better then [sic] taking the land away. I love the parks and would much rather spend my money there then Disney or other such place.”
John K. points to the skyrocketing number of visitors throughout the parks: “great news might actually be able to get in and see something now.”
Others aren’t so thrilled. “It's a ploy to reduce visitor numbers, as a prelude to selling off Park resources to corporations for extraction,” says Oliver H.
Jenny N. also isn’t totally on board: “I hate that an increased fee means some families or individuals might not be able to see these places because it's too expensive.”
The White House proposed cutting the budget of the Interior Department, which NPS is part of, by about 12 percent to $11.6 billion in 2018. One reason for the proposed cuts? An attempt to address the national park system’s roughly $11 billion maintenance backlog.
NPS notes that a majority of national parks will remain free, since only 118 of 417 park sites charge an entrance fee. A public comment period on the proposal for the increase in entrance fees will be open through December 22, 2017.