Good news for the summer travel season: Although fees at national parks are rising, you won’t have to pay $70 to visit the likes of the Grand Canyon or Yosemite.
The National Park Service has nixed its plan to roughly double admission prices at 17 popular parks during peak visitation times. In response to public comments about that proposal, the federal agency recently announced that it has instead opted for smaller price hikes at 117 sites.
In most cases, daily and weekly entrance fees will rise by no more than $5 under the new fee schedule. The cost of park-specific annual passes will rise by no more than $10.
At many of the 117 affected parks, these increases take effect June 1. Some parks will raise their fees incrementally, with the new fees taking effect by Jan. 1, 2020.
A list of all affected parks, and the amount and effective date of their fee increases, can be found on the park service’s “Entrance Fees by Park” webpage.
Most parks are unaffected
The park service system comprises 417 sites, ranging from national battlefields to national seashores. Admission to 300 of these sites is free and will continue to be free. They are unaffected by the new fee schedule for the other 117 destinations.
Additionally, the cost of an America the Beautiful annual pass — which is valid at some 2,000 sites managed by various federal agencies — will continue to be $80. That will also remain the cost of a lifetime senior pass — a steal available to folks age 62 and older.
Your dollars at work
When the park service proposed the steep fee hikes in October, it cited aging infrastructure and a backlog of maintenance projects. That’s also behind the new fee schedule involving small increases.
The agency explains:
“The funds will be used for projects and activities to improve the experience for visitors who continue to visit parks at unprecedented levels. Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, means aging park facilities incurring further wear and tear.”
Getting caught up on the park service’s system-wide maintenance backlog would currently cost $11.6 billion, according to the agency.
Examples of the types of projects that are part of that backlog include:
- Redesign of a new accessible visitor center desk at James A. Garfield National Historic Site (Ohio)
- Construction of accessible parking and path to a restroom in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Arizona)
- Repair of historic stone steps, coping wall and gravel tread on the popular Beech Cliff Loop Trail in Acadia National Park (Maine)
- Replacement of the 162-foot Elkwallow Trail Bridge in Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
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