The Lowdown on Entry Fees at Your Favorite National Parks: What You Need to Know
As nature enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and avid travelers, many of us eagerly anticipate exploring national parks' breathtaking landscapes and diverse ecosystems each summer. From the majestic peaks of Zion National Park to the lush forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the pristine lakes of Glacier National Park, these protected areas offer unparalleled beauty and opportunities for recreation. However, before you pack your bags and hit the trails, it's important to be aware of entry fees and reservation systems that may be in place at these parks. Let’s delve into the details of entry fees and reservation systems at popular national parks to help you plan your trip effectively.
Glacier National Park
To enter Glacier National Park, visitors must pay for a pass upon arrival. This pass usually costs about $35 and is good for all passengers in a vehicle. Otherwise, an annual pass is also available for $80. In addition to the entry fee, vehicle reservations are required for high-traffic, popular areas of the park, including Two Medicine, Many Glacier, Going-to-the-sun Road, and the North Fork Road. The need for such a registration system is vital to help preserve and protect the park for generations to come. The vehicle pass is for all vehicles who wish to drive these high-traffic roads during peak season, from May to October, and is good for peak entry times, which are 6 AM- 3 PM. To get a vehicle reservation, you must visit Recreation.gov in advance to secure your spot.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
What’s unique about the Great Smoky Mountains is that no daily entry fee is required. It is free to drive through and enjoy the vast scenic vistas. This year, however, to help with the overcrowding of parking lots and to prevent people from parking on the shoulders of the road, the park has implemented its program, “Park It Forward.” Anyone parking in the National Park for more than 15 minutes will be required to display a parking pass on their vehicle. You can purchase a parking pass at any of the visitor centers. There will also be automated fee machines that will be conveniently located around the park, where you will be able to use your credit card to purchase a parking pass. To learn more about Park It Forward, visit their website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fees.htm#9/35.6193/-84.4876.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Same as Glacier, a pass is required for every car, bike, or pedestrian entering Rocky Mountain National Park. Annual passes are also available for $80. Starting from May 26 through October 22, 2023, the park will implement a pilot temporary timed entry permit reservation system from 9 am to 2 pm. The entry permit is required for visitors who want to visit Trail Ridge Road, Alpine Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Valley, or any location outside the Bear Lake Road corridor.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park, located in southwestern Utah, is renowned for its towering sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, and verdant valleys. To manage the high visitation levels, Zion National Park has implemented a shuttle service. The shuttle brings visitors to every trailhead and popular park areas. You’ll never have to wait more than 10-15 minutes for a shuttle, which allows for ease throughout your park experience. The shuttle system helps reduce congestion and noise and minimizes the impact on the park's fragile ecosystem. You do not need to reserve shuttle tickets or enter the park. However, you do need to pay the entrance fee upon arrival of $35 per vehicle.