Mad About Proposed National Park Fee Hikes? Here’s What You Can Do About It

Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek in Grand Canyon National Park
Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek in Grand Canyon National Park. NPS/ Mark Lellouch.

Thinking of visiting some national parks on your big family road trip next summer? You may end up needing to expand your budget.

Earlier this week, the National Park Service announced plans to increase peak season fees at 17 of the most frequently visited national parks — primarily those in the western United States.

The revenue from these price hikes, which the National Parks Service estimates will be around $70 million each year, will be used to repair and improve infrastructure and accommodations including roads, bridges, bathrooms and campgrounds, along with other visitor services.

The New Cost of Visiting These National Parks

Starting in 2018, the National Park Service intends to raise per-vehicle entrance fees by as much as $45, while per-person fees will go up by as much as $20.

Currently, the National Park Service charges a year-round entrance fees of $25 to $30 per vehicle, $10 to $15 per person on bike or foot or $12 to $25 per motorcycle.

If implemented, the new peak-season entrance fees would come in at $70 per vehicle, $30 per person or $50 per motorcycle across the board.

Park-specific annual passes will jump from anywhere between $35 and $60 to a flat $75, both during the peak season and not.

Peak season for 16 of the national parks in question runs primarily through the summer months, while Joshua Tree National Park has a peak season that lasts from January through the end of May.

The Push to Preserve the Parks

Perhaps anticipating backlash, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, stressed that the price hikes and subsequent improvements are vital to the long-term health of our national park system, saying that charging higher fees at the parks “will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity.”

“We need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks and take action in order to ensure that our grandkids’ grandkids will have the same if not better experience than we have today,” he continued.

In the same statement, the National Park Service noted that out of 417 park sites under the National Park Service’s jurisdiction, only 118 currently charge entrance fees — and that out of those 118, only 17 will be affected by the proposed rate hike.

Additionally, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which grants entrance to all federal lands for a one-year period, will remain at its current price point of $80.

Your Opinion Counts!

Still, while the National Park Service sees these rate increases as a necessary step in protecting the future of some of the country’s most visited parks, many people have stepped up to voice their concerns.

Some argue the new rates will price many visitors out of the parks, while others blame the $1.5 billion in cuts being made to the Department of the Interior’s budget.

Whether you object or agree with the National Park Service’s new plan, though, it wants to hear from you.

Those who want to make their opinion on the matter heard are being directed to a comment form that opened on Oct. 24 and will close on Nov. 23.

If you prefer the more old-school, snail-mail method, comments and opinions can be sent to: National Park Service, Recreation Fee Program, 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

They’re your parks, people — let your voices be heard!

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.