It’s official: The National Park Service has hiked entrance fees for the 117 parks that charge admission. But the price increases are much lower than what was initially proposed last year.
The fee increase will be $5 to $10 for a park-specific annual pass. The price for one-time entry per private vehicle or motorcycle will increase by $5. (In many parks, a single entrance fee grants access for seven days, while other parks have options for one- or seven-day passes.)
An annual park pass to Yosemite, for example, is now $70, up from $60. The price per private vehicle is now $35, up from $30.
But it’s a much less severe increase than the $70 per private vehicle that was proposed back in October 2017.
The NPS first announced a plan to increase the admission prices back then 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, were expected to rise to $70 per private, commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. That increase would have been nearly three times the current rate for some parks.
A public comment period on the proposal for the increase in entrance fees was held from October 24 through December 22, 2017. During that time, the NPS received more than 109,000 comments. It’s clear when combing through these comments that park lovers were split on the increases. But NPS may have lowered the increases because of the public response.
The reason for the 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.
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 117 of 417 park sites charge an entrance fee. And 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 first park to see the new increase is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado, where the price hike goes into effect on April 15. Other parks won’t see the fee changes until 2020.