Western public land agencies propose higher recreation fees to offset heavy usage

Grand Teton National Park is proposing changing how much it charges for backcountry camping permits and is seeking public input.
Grand Teton National Park is one of the western recreation spots proposing fee changes. (Wehardy/CC by 2.0)

by | Aug 28, 2023 | Recreation

This story comes through a content-sharing partnership with Wyoming Public Media.

Popular recreation areas across the Mountain West are proposing price hikes for campsites, backcountry permits, parking spots and other amenities. Public land agencies say they’re responding to increased wear and tear on trails and facilities.

Fee changes could impact popular national parks like Grand TetonBryce Canyon and Glacier.

In Grand Teton, the rate for backcountry permits is currently $45 for advance reservations and $35 for walk-ups, regardless of group size or number of nights. But, park officials say those fees can be inequitable, so they’re proposing a flat fee of $20, plus $7 per person per night. 

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Park-goers have until Monday, Sept. 4 to submit comments online. The changes could take effect next year.

A trend across the West

Grand Teton isn’t alone is raising fees.

At Zion, for example, proposed fees would jump by 50 percent, or $15, at some campgrounds.

Mike Reynolds, deputy director at the National Park Service, said in recent congressional testimony that his agency needs extra funding to keep up with demand in recreation areas. Fees help pay for staffing, maintenance and rescue efforts.

“Visitors expect to find high-quality facilities, which enable a safe and memorable experience. Yet many of the roads, trails, restrooms and facilities in national parks are aging and strained by underfunding,” Reynolds said.

Lesser-known Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands could also see price hikes, including in WyomingNevadaColorado and Utah. Increases recently took effect in Idaho and will later this year in New Mexico.

In many cases, agencies are considering public feedback this fall before they move forward with any changes.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

KHOL reporter Hanna Merzbach contributed to this story.

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About Will Walkey

Will is KHOL's first full-time reporter and producer. Originally from Tacoma, Washington, he recently graduated from Columbia University with a Master's Degree in journalism. He likes to read and write about housing, local politics, and history, and spends most of his free time fishing or biking. He's excited to be living in Wyoming, and looks forward to honing in on his unique radio voice by highlighting the locals that make Jackson special. Contact Will with tips at will@jhcr.org, and follow him on Twitter at @WillWalkey.

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