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Why you need to plan that national parks trip before next summer

Posted at 2:25 PM, Nov 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-02 14:32:29-05

Visiting national parks could cost more

Want to visit Yosemite, Grand Canyon or Yellowstone next year?

Pack your camping supplies and knock those parks off your bucket list now, because it may cost you a little bit more to explore the national parks by summer 2015.

For the first time in eight years, the National Park Service sites that charge entrance and amenity fees can 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.

Yosemite National Park, which released its fee proposal on Tuesday, 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).

The cost of national park 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!

Yosemite National Park, California

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.

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.

Current vehicle entrance fee: $25

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Old Faithful calls this place home.

Established as the United States’ first national park in 1872, Yellowstone is also one of the first 12 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, which recognizes the world’s most important natural and cultural wonders. Yellowstone is one of the few remaining intact ecosystems of significant size in the northern temperate zone on Earth, including a volcano, more than 300 geysers and more than 10,000 thermal features.

Current vehicle entrance fee: $25

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.

Current vehicle entrance fee: $10

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

It’s free! Despite its reign as the most-visited national park in the country last year, with 9.4 million visitors, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is our bargain park, with no entrance fees. (There are camping and other amenity fees.)

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.