It’s not just you: Joshua Tree National Park is more popular than it’s ever been. Annual visitor numbers have spiked from about 1.3 million people in the early aughts to over 2.5 million in 2016, with a 27% uptick in the first half of 2017. Unprecedented crowds—not just at Joshua Tree, but across the county’s most popular national parks—also means unprecedented wear and tear on roads, bathrooms and campgrounds.
In order to generate revenue for a backlog of infrastructure repairs, the National Park Service has proposed a $70 per vehicle peak-season entrance fee next year at 17 national parks around the country.
For Angelenos looking for nearby escapes, that could mean a $70 fee to enter Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, up from $30 per vehicle, starting May 1, 2018. At Joshua Tree, the current $25 fee could rise to $70 “as soon as practicable in 2018” (the National Park Service considers January 1 through May 31 the peak season there). Off-peak vehicle fees would remain the same.
For repeat visitors, all park-specific annual passes would increase to $75 as well, while the “America the Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass,” which provides access to all parks, would remain at $80.
Before finalizing the price increase, the National Park Service is inviting public comments on its website through November 23, 2017. In addition, you can mail written comments to 1849 C Street, NW, Mail Stop: 2346 Washington, DC 20240.
The 17 parks included in the proposal account for 70% of the total of all entrance fees at the country’s national parks. As a result, the National Park Service estimates it could generate an additional $70 million in revenue per year, up from the $200 million-plus collected in 2016. While some of those funds would be spread out across the national system, 80% of each entrance fee remains within the park where it is collected.
Here’s the full list of parks that would see peak-season price increases below:
Jan 1–May 31
Joshua Tree National Park
May 1–Sept 30
Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Denali, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Olympic, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion National Parks
June 1–Oct 31
Acadia, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Shenandoah National Parks