Under a proposal proposed by Yellowstone and Grand Teton personnel, a seven-day pass good for both parks would cost $50 starting in the spring. There are additional proposed increases in both parks. See the accompanying story below.
“The proposed fee changes are part of a larger National Park Service initiative to update entry fees that have been in place since 2006 in national parks across the country,” according to a Grand Teton news release. Proposed changes to fees in Yellowstone would be effective April 1 and Grand Teton’s would be effective May 1.
Compare those costs to entrance fees for other destinations such as Disneyland, suggested Rick Hoeninghausen. Hoeninghausen is Xanterra Parks and Resorts director of marketing and sales in Yellowstone National Park and also serves as Park County Travel Council secretary.
A one-day ticket to a Disneyland theme park is $96, according to Disneyland Resort.
“It (Yellowstone/Grand Teton entrance fee) still seems incredibly reasonable,” Hoeninghausen said. “Fifty bucks would barely be a tank of gas.”
Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, is concerned about the price doubling to tour both parks.
“While I certainly don’t question the value of those experiences, an additional $25 could certainly affect someone’s spending here in Cody,” Balyo said. “Additionally, we have a tremendous amount of cross visitation between here and Jackson, so those visitors will be forced to pay the additional price to travel between communities.”
Yellowstone personnel will be in Cody from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Holiday Inn, 1701 Sheridan Ave., to discuss the proposed increases.
A three-day pass to Yellowstone only would be $30 under the proposal.
“The increase for just Yellowstone is relatively modest in price; however, I would like the pass to be for seven days,” Balyo said.
Yellowstone may be only part of a bigger road trip for many, so they may spend only a few days in the park, Hoeninghausen said. A 2011 study in Yellowstone said 70 percent of Yellowstone visitors spent 2.8 days in the park, said Amy Bartlett, a Yellowstone Park spokeswoman.
Grand Teton visitors average three to four days in the park, according to visitor surveys, said Jackie Skaggs, Grand Teton Park spokeswoman. Under the proposal, a seven-day pass to Grand Teton would be $30.
If a family of four goes to the movies, the price of tickets, soft drinks and popcorn would be more than $30, Skaggs said.
The proposed changes would result in additional annual revenue of approximately $3 million for Yellowstone, which would be used to continue or enhance projects such as Yellowstone cutthroat trout restoration, maintenance for the park’s seven campgrounds, preservation maintenance on park roads, improved restroom facilities, reconstruction and rehabilitation of trails including Tower Falls and a new North Entrance station facility, according to a Yellowstone news release.
Grand Teton’s proposed increases would up revenue to the park by $1.7 million annually. Those proceeds would be earmarked to improve visitor facilities, services and their experience. Operational expenses are rising.
“It’s just that we need a little more revenue to keep up with the price of doing business,” Skaggs said.
“If parks need to raise prices to offset the costs, I think that is reasonable,” Hoeninghausen said.
“I fully support maintaining the infrastructure in the parks, and should gas prices remain at lower levels, some of this will be absorbed; however, I think some streamlining could be helpful both from an economics standpoint and a customer-service standpoint,” Balyo said.
There are a number of fees for entering one or both parks under the proposal.
The Cody chamber is currently telling tourists a $25 fee allows entry to both parks. If the proposed increases are realized, the chamber will have to explain as many as three options and help people calculate their length of stay to determine the best value, Balyo said.
“I don’t believe this will impact total visitation negatively, but if people have to spend more to enjoy the parks, that likely means a reduction in spending elsewhere for many travelers,” Balyo said.
Seven days in both parks for $50 equals just over $7 per day per car. Hoeninghausen said he does not believe the increase will affect park visitation.
The proposal addresses entrance fees and backcountry permits. Fishing permits would cost the same, Bartlett said.
“National parks have historically provided an affordable and memorable vacation experience for individuals and families,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela. “When compared to other vacation or recreation areas, national parks offer a bargain for many travelers.”
Gas, food and other expenses are also factors when traveling to and visiting the parks. “This will be a very small piece of the cost of the entire trip, but the experience will last for days,” Hoeninghausen said.
The public is encouraged to attend the meeting in Cody on Tuesday or one of the following meetings to learn more about the proposed Yellowstone fee changes:
The meeting in Jackson takes place from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday at The Lexington. Grand Teton’s fee changes also will be discussed there.
Bozeman’s meeting is from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, at the Hilton Garden Inn.
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and leaders in Washington, D.C., will decide whether to make the increases after the public comments are received. “I think the decision will be made after the first of the year,” Skaggs said.
Yellowstone/Grand Teton parks proposed increases
Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks managers are proposing increased fees that would take effect in the spring.
Visitors in a private vehicle currently pay $25 for a seven-day pass good in both parks or $50 for a pass that gets you into them for the entire year.
Under the proposal, seven days of access to the two parks would double to $50, while annual access to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone would mean buying an $80 pass that grants access to all national parks. Park managements want to separate fees for the parks.
An annual pass specific to either parks would cost $60. A three-day Yellowstone-only vehicle pass or a seven-day Grand Teton-only permit would be $30.
If you’re riding a motorcycle or snowmobile, a three-day Yellowstone pass or seven-day Grand Teton pass would cost $25, with a week-long pass to both costing $40. Currently, there is a $20 fee for seven days of access to both.
For those entering Yellowstone or Grand Teton on foot, bicycle, skis or inside a snow coach, the current rate is $12 for seven days of access to both. That would rise to $25.
Walkers, bikers and skiers also would have the option of getting a three-day, Yellowstone-only pass or a seven-day Grand Teton-only pass for $15.
The cost of an annual pass to all federal land fee areas is set by acts of Congress, said Jackie Skaggs, Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman, so those passes will stay at $80 or $10 for seniors until lawmakers say otherwise. People with permanent disabilities and active-duty military members and their dependents are admitted for free.
In addition to the hikes to entrance fees, Yellowstone managers are proposing a new charge for overnight backcountry permits to help recover program costs.
The proposed backcountry camping permit fee would be $3 per person (age 9 and older) per night with a maximum of $15 per night for a party of backpackers. Stock groups would be charged $5 per person per night with no maximum.
The $25 fee for trips reserved more than 48 hours in advance would not change. Users would be able to purchase an annual backcountry pass for $25.
Comments on Yellowstone managers’ fee proposals may be hand-delivered to the park’s administration building in Mammoth Hot Springs, at a public meeting or mailed to Management Assistant Office, Attn: Entrance Fee Proposal, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY, 82190.
Send Grand Teton comments to Superintendent, Grand Teton National Park, P.O. Box 170, Moose, WY 83012 or submit comments online at parkplanning.nps.gov/GRTEchangestofees.
Comments will not be accepted in any other format and are due by midnight Friday, Dec. 5.
— Gib Mathers