Outdoors Blog

The fee you pay to visit popular national parks near Idaho could double next year

Your visit to some of the West’s most popular national parks — including Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier — could get more expensive under a proposal from the National Park Service to deal with maintenance backlogs.

The peak-season entrance fee for vehicles at 17 parks would jump from $30 to $75. The new price would take effect May 1 and run through September at Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion; June 1 through October at Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Shenandoah; and January through May at Joshua Tree. The cost would be $50 for motorcycles (up from $25) and $30 (up from $15) for people on bike or foot.

The annual America the Beautiful pass that provides access to all federal lands for a year would remain $80, so more people likely would take that option. Park-specific annual passes would increase to $75. Those vary by site — they’re $35 at Bryce Canyon and $60 at Yellowstone this year.

The fee increase could generate as much as $70 million in additional revenue, the National Park Service estimates. Eighty percent of the fees collected must be spent in that park. The money is needed to address the parks’ maintenance backlog, the NPS said. The backlog was a staggering $11.3 billion last year.

Public comment on the proposed changes will be accepted through Nov. 23 here.

President Donald Trump also has proposed a $400 million cut to the NPS budget in 2018.

“The infrastructure of our national parks is aging and in need of renovation and restoration,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a press release. “Targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved in perpetuity and that visitors enjoy a world-class experience that mirrors the amazing destinations they are visiting. 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. Shoring up our parks’ aging infrastructure will do that.”

Jon Jarvis, who retired as the National Park Service director in January, said in a speech in Boise last October that his agency hoped increased visitation would lead to increased public support for the parks.

“We’re a little overwhelmed,” he said. “To be blunt about it, that’s a little intentional. We needed to reconnect with the American people. We wanted to broaden our base, too — not just with our traditional supporters but, again, more representative of America. And Congress has been saying for many years, ‘Why do you need more money when visitation has been flat?’ We needed to show that the public cares. There’s a direct correlation between public support and visitation. When they come, they want to help. The Park Service is pretty good at managing visitors.”

The National Park Service sites in Idaho, except for a small piece of Yellowstone, aren’t included in the fee proposal.

National Park Service sites in Idaho include:

▪  City of Rocks National Reserve (Almo)

▪  Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Arco)

▪  Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument (Hagerman)

▪  Minidoka National Historic Site (Hagerman)

▪  Nez Perce National Historical Park (a string of 38 sites across Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana; Idaho sites are in North Idaho)

Some national parks in the region and their distance from Downtown Boise (via Google Maps):

▪  Grand Teton (Wyoming): 372 miles

▪  Crater Lake (Oregon): 400

▪  Mount Rainier (Washington): 430

▪  Yellowstone (Wyoming/Montana/Idaho): 437

▪  Great Basin (Nevada): 455

▪  Lassen Volcanic (California): 502

▪  Glacier (Montana): 503

▪  Arches/Bryce Canyon/Capitol Reef/Canyonlands/Zion (Utah): 550-650

▪  North Cascades National Park (Washington): 553