Reed: Pricey national park passes will only harm attendance

Spencer Reed

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board

National parks should have a cost to enter and enjoy their beauty. However, prices will now be skyrocketing, and that includes Fort Colin’s beloved Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).


The National Park Service (NPS) made the announcement late last month that they plan on exponentially raising the price to enter 17 of the most highly visited parks. According to the NPS, this is an effort to offer park visitors a better experience. On the other hand, there will be no visitors to experience the parks if they can’t afford to be there.

The implication here is that the nation’s most prized natural locations will only be available to those who can afford it. The new price listings to enter national parks made by the NPS are undesirable to say the least– which could give local Coloradans a gripe when deciphering whether to visit RMNP this upcoming summer. I for one, will be saving my chunk of change for something less-expensive.

New entrance fees were listed in the proposal made by the park service. If the provisions are adopted, noncommercial vehicles would begin paying $70 for park use. The current price for a noncommercial park pass is $30, so the fee would then be more than doubled. Moreover, motorcycle fees could double, and would see a price increase from $25 to $50. The cost for pedestrians to enter on foot would also spike; a price change from $15 to $30. Luckily, the price for a season pass to all national parks is not proposed to change. A season pass is listed at $80.

There is a total of 17 parks that would experience the influx in entrance fee pricing. They were specifically battered by the NPS because parks such as these are considered to be “top revenue parks.” According to the parks service, these 17 national parks make the sum of 70 percent of all entrance fees throughout the U.S.

 Some would see the increase beginning on May 1, 2018. Those parks include:

  • Arches National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Denali National Park
  • Glacier National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Zion National Park

Another remaining four parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, would have their ticket pricing go up on June 1, 2018. The other three are:

  • Acadia National Park
  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Shenandoah National Park

One last park, Joshua Tree National Park, would expected to change it’s entrance pricing as soon as January 1 of next year.

Fortunately, the jump in entrance fee pricing is proposed to last for only a five-month period every year. However, the NPS has targeted the five busiest months of the year in each respected park to implement the new rulings. It is in these five months that the park service hopes to receive a 34 percent increase in revenue that would help them make improvements to all national parks. That’s an extra $70 million based off of the $200 million the NPS made in the 2016 fiscal year.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, made the notion that, “targeted fee increases at some of our most-visited parks will help ensure that they are protected and preserved, we need to have the vision to look at the future of our parks…”

If targeting specific parks for more overall revenue is necessary to maintain the privilege of national parks, then so be it. However, an increase of more than double the previous cost to enter a park could likely drive people away.


A public comment period already began when the proposal was made on October 24, and will be open until November 23. During this time, the NPS will be listening to comments made by the public in regard to the peak-season entrance fee proposal. Citizens can post concerns to the NPS’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website. Written comments can also be submitted by mail, to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.

National park business has been gradually rising over the past couple decades. In 2000, parks saw around 286 million visitors. In 2016 that number rose to be 330 million. This notable increase in visitors in American parks could be at risk if the NPS provisions go as planned.

Spencer Reed can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @sbreed96.