It’s National Parks Week!

US National Parks Waive Their Entrance Fee for a Day

It’s National Parks Week!

Sylvia was impressed by Zion Canyon, one of the most visited of the National Parks.

US National Parks offered free admission on Saturday, April 20. Did you take advantage?

Many people have likely heard about the entrance fee increases in National Parks. While some ghastly numbers were bandied about as trial balloons early in the process, the actual fee increases ended amounting to, in most cases, only a few dollars.

What many people don’t know, and the USNPS website helpfully points out, is that fewer than one third of the national park units charge any admission at all!* Whoopee!

Haleakala National Park
The weird landscapes of Hawaii’s Haleakala Volcano made it among the most memorable National Parks we have visited.

But see that asterisk? There’s always a catch. In this case, it refers to the fact that what the phrase really should say is, “Less than one third of the national park units charge admission, but most of those that don’t are the ones you probably don’t care about!” 🙂

In fact, most of them aren’t national parks at all. Most are historic sites, monuments, ‘heritage sites’ and other quasi-park units. These are very important in their own right of course, but not the sorts of things most people think of when the hear the words, “National Park.”

The ones you probably ARE thinking of — Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemeti, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Denali, Glacier, Mt. Rainier — yeah, you’re gonna pay to get into any of them.

Does the Grand Canyon charge a fee? You bet your butte it does.

There are some VERY good national parks that don’t charge a fee. For example…North Cascades and Great Basin National Parks. They are less visited because they are very remote, and fairly undeveloped by NPS standards.

There is one notable exception to this, of course. Great Smoky Mountains NP is popular and charges NO admissions fee at all. This is in fact part of the reason for its staggering popularity. Eleven Million people visit annually…double the number of the next park on the list, which is the Grand Canyon.

Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower
GSMNP has many great views like this one from Mt. Cammerer, but what it has mostly is crowds.

We have opined many times about the crowds in GSMNP, and the fact that the crowds are one of the things that have caused us to conclude that the overall experience of this popular park is somewhat overrated, at least for hiking.

However, everything needs to be put in perspective. Earlier this week I blogged about Notre Dame of Paris Cathedral, recently damaged by fire. That single BUILDING routinely got MORE visitors per year than the entire Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which is 800 square miles of territory.  I knew the place was crowded, but…

Note that if you want to camp, stay in a lodge, buy firewood, a cheeseburger or an overpriced hoodie at ANY national park…you are going to pay something. Cheeseburgers aren’t handed out for free. Hoodies are not either as Brian can attest.

Brian (now Sylvia’s) Shenandoah Hoodie was an impulse purchase…the impulse being, he was freezing his ass off and that was the only thing in the gift shop that fit.

Many National Parks also have a fee for certain ‘attractions’ within the park. For example, you don’t have to pay to get into Great Basin NP, but you do have to pay to tour Lehman Caves, one of its signature attractions.

Brian trudges through Bryce Canyon, which gets much less visitation than Zion.

Also, if you happen to be a fourth grader, you can get into ANY park free as part of the ‘Every Kid in a Park‘ program. Brian, who is a former fourth grader and still maintains much of the maturity of one, states that this is totally NOT FAIR and that fourth graders get EVERYTHING.

Our recommendation to all Americans is to see as many of the US National Parks, among our greatest American treasures, as possible, and see them as often as possible. And be sure to go out west and visit all the big ones.

Kings Canyon remains one of Brian’s less visited favorites.

Brian has visited seven of the top ten most visited National Parks in the US. If you follow the blog you might be able to tell which three he’s still yet to check off his list. Hint…one of them is the closest REAL National Park to his birthplace in Boston. Yeah, he never made it to —–. He was too busy with the White Mountains.

But he aims to change this someday. In fact he aims to visit MOST of the big National Park units. He just has a hard time getting up for some of them…Indiana Sand Dunes for example. You are telling me those dunes are better than Jockey’s Ridge State Park?

Visit your National Parks soon! (But go out of season and go to a less visited one. You won’t be sorry!)



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