For the first time in eight years, the National Park Service has given park sites that charge entrance and amenity fees permission to increase their rates by set amounts. They have to engage their communities, note what the increases will cover and get approval by park service headquarters. Fee increase proposals are due by March 15.
Though just 133 of the 401 National Park Service sites across the United States charge an entrance fee, they're some of the parks that travelers often think of first. Think Yosemite, Yellowstone and of course, the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is proposing to increase several fees for the first time since 1997. The single vehicle entrance fee would increase from $25 to $30 for a seven-day pass, and the individual and motorcycle rate of $12 would increase to $15 per individual and to $25 per motorcycle. The individual park's annual pass would increase from $50 to $60.
The cost of national park system passes will remain at $80 for the regular annual pass, $10 for the lifetime senior pass and free for the annual military passes and access passes (for those with permanent disabilities).
These are five national park sites we think you must see, either now or after any fee increases take effect. They're still a bargain!
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Colorado River cuts through the bottom of the magnificent Grand Canyon for 277 miles, and it's a full vertical mile from the South Rim to the canyon floor. The canyon's width varies, but it measures 18 miles in several spots. The South Rim is open year-round, but the North Rim -- generally the coolest place in the park -- is open during the spring and summer.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park, which released its fee proposal in October, wants to increase its weekly entrance pass from $20 to $30. Camping fees would rise from the current range of $5 to $20 per night for family sites ($40 per night for group sites) to a range of $6 to $24 per night for family sites ($48 per night for group sites). President Abraham Lincoln first protected Yosemite with his signing of the Yosemite Land Grant on June 30, 1864, 150 years ago. Yosemite will celebrate 125 years as a national park in 2015.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
Old Faithful calls this place home.
Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park is one of the most unique spots on Earth, home to the world's highest collection of natural sandstone arches. They include the largest, Landscape Arch, and the tallest, Double Arch South.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
That's because the park's Newfound Gap Road was once owned by the state of Tennessee. When the state transferred it to the federal government, the state required that no fee "ever be imposed" to travel the road.