Cost of Admission to National Parks About to Increase to $70?!

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

It sounds cliché, but one of this nation’s biggest treasures are our National Parks. They are not only beautiful, awe-inspiring, and majestic, but also affordable and attainable. It may cost over $100 per person per day to get into Disney World, but it is currently just $30 for a private car full of people to visit Yellowstone for up to seven days. Heck, if you are 62+ and were lucky enough to get in on the lifetime $10 Senior America the Beautiful Pass then your deal is even better than that. 


However, that may be changing a bit as the National Parks Service has proposed a fee increase, reportedly to address maintenance backlogs.

The NPS has proposed peak-season entrance fees at 17 of the national parks during their busiest contiguous five-month period of visitation. During the peak season at each park, the entrance fee would be $70 per private vehicle, $50 per motorcycle, and $30 per person on bike or foot. A park-specific annual pass for any of the 17 parks would be available for $75.

In essence, during peak season, this means that a family visiting a park like Yellowstone would have to pay double what they pay now to get into the park. The new fee structure would apply to Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks with peak season starting on May 1, 2018; in Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and Shenandoah National Parks with peak season starting on June 1, 2018; and in Joshua Tree National Park as soon as practicable in 2018.

You could avoid this proposed increase as the cost of the annual America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, which provides entrance to all federal lands, including parks for a one-year period, would remain $80. Entrance fees are not charged to visitors under 16 years of age or holders of Senior, Military, Access, Volunteer, or Every Kid in a Park (EKIP) passes. The majority of national parks would also remain free to enter; as only 118 of 417 park sites charge an entrance fee.

Of course, I don’t love the idea of a family having to pay 2x or more of the current rates to get into one of these parks during peak season, but it is hard to argue with their need for more funding. If they aren’t going to get it from one source, they have to find it from another. Even at $70 for a car, these parks are still a deal for a family to visit compared to many other popular events and attractions. Heck, if a family of four wanted to go up the Empire State Building to get a good view of New York City it would cost $122 for four standard tickets. Not to knock the Empire State Building, but $122 for a family to go up a building and look around for a few minutes vs. $70 for a family to enjoy a National Park for up to a week makes the National Parks a pretty good deal even at an increased price point.

I also have to imagine that even if you use miles and points to cover a chunk of your trip that a $35  – $40 difference in the cost of admission is still a very modest increase in the overall trip cost. Still, if they can find another way to do the necessary upkeep without passing the cost on to visitors then I’m all for it. I would hate to see families forgo a trip to the Grand Canyon because of the entrance fee. I would also hate to see families skip a nearby National Park on a big road trip because they couldn’t keep paying entrance fees at each park. In that case, they would probably be better served with an annual pass at $80.


If you want to pass along your thoughts on this proposed increase, there is a public comment period on the peak-season entrance fee proposal open from October 24, 2017, to November 23, 2017.

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. Also in the opening sentence did you mean clique (a small group of people with a common interest) or cliché (an overused phrase, expression or opinion)?

  2. I’m for the higher prices (and yes, I visit often so it will cost me money). The Parks need help with funding and they deserve it. Even at the proposed prices, they remain a monstrous bargain!

  3. It is a dramatic increase and that is certainly a negative part of the proposed fee change. Considering it is for a 7 day period, it is actually very fair. The Parks to be affected get almost too crowded during peak season so maybe this is an example of “dynamic pricing” found at ballparks and stadiums around the country these days. Perhaps there can be two levels of fees, the larger fee and subsequent permit for those attending the park for multiple days and a reduced fee and permit for those just driving through or visiting for only a day. That way everyone would feel they are getting their moneys worth. We are very grateful for the lifetime senior pass we acquired 5 years ago.

    • Agree – almost seems that if they are going to increase/complicate, that they might as well go all in. If an annual pass to all parks is $80 then a week at one park seems off at $75. One day at $75 certainly seems out of whack. I guess the moral of the story is get the $80 annual pass if you are going to any of the parks that year…assuming you don’t have someone like Grandpa Points along with his fancy lifetime pass!

  4. So…looks like we are just *beginning* to see the effects from the 12% cuts to our National Parks Budget. You get what you vote for I suppose….

    • Nice try, lol. The parks have been increasingly overcrowding for years now. So much so that popular locations in parks like Zion have long lines of people making their way through them. The park service has been discussing fee increases for a while now.

  5. Its definitely fairer to charge more for people actually using the parks than just making everyone pay for it through their taxes.

    • Sam, a very good point. “Pay as you go”, guess that’s what was voted for! For what you receive, it’s still a very good cost/price —-

  6. I’ve been to 39 of the National Parks, many of them multiple times each, and wish they all cost this much. Or more. I think it would help cut down traffic/pollution, as well as address the issues of their growing popularity.

    I do wish it was in their normal budget to fix their infrastructure issues and prep for the future, but we know that’s not going to happen.

    I also like Disney World, and the stupid amount of money people drop there (myself included, unfortunately) makes the Parks’ admission fees look like pennies in comparison.

    Go out and enjoy your closest National Parks, people!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *