Historian and writer Wallace Stegner once called the United States’ national parks “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
If you haven’t experienced at least a few of America’s national parks, let 2018 be the year you get started. They are places of wonder, enchantment and inspiration.
You will find it a bit pricier to visit this year, though. In October, the National Park Service revealed its plan to hike rates in 17 of its most popular parks, from $25-$35 per vehicle and $10 per hiker/biker to $70 per vehicle and $30 per hiker/biker.
But let’s not bemoan that fact too long. After all, the parks could use the additional $70 Million in revenue that the raised entrance fees will generate. The parks can use the money for restrooms, exhibits, trails, campgrounds and more. And, as anyone who’s been to a few can testify, they are totally worth it.
In addition to the higher rates, the number of free days at national parks will be reduced in 2018, from 10 to four. But the free admission applies to all 485 national parks, monuments, battlefields and historic sites. So mark your calendar for these days:
- January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 21: First day of National Park Week
- September 22: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
Keep in mind that any time of year that you can find to go is a good time. And if you’re going to cruise to two or more, absolutely look into the America The Beautiful Pass, which is only $80 and allows unlimited access to all parks, all year. If you are a U.S. citizen aged 62 or over, you are eligible for a Senior Pass, $80 for a lifetime pass. Current U.S. military and their dependents are free, and if you’ve got a fourth grader, he or she can get a pass that makes your whole carload free, as part of the Every Kid in a Park program.
So first, check out which parks are near you, and get planning!