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Zion National Park is seeking public input on a plan that would raise prices for campsite reservations and hiking permits for popular trails, boosting the cost for some hiking groups by more than 400 percent.
The draft plan, which the park released on August 1, would moderately boost prices for the park’s three frontcountry campgrounds. The cost of an electric campsite in Watchman Campground would rise from $30 to $45 per night, while a non-electric campsite in Watchman and South campgrounds would go up from $20 to $35. A night in a non-electric campsite in Lava Point would increase from $20 to $25.
The plan would also make sweeping changes to the prices the park charges for both day-use and overnight permits. Currently, the park charges a flat fee of $5 for lottery applications or advance reservations. The park also charges an additional permit fee based on the size of the group, from $15 for a group of two or less and up to $25 for a group of up to 12.
Under the newly proposed increase, groups would pay $6 for a day-use lottery application or advanced booking, plus a $10 per person fee for every member of the group. Hikers seeking walk-up permits would pay the same $6 fee. Overnight users would see the cost of their permits rise even more, paying a $20 booking fee for both advance reservations and walk-up permits, plus a charge of $7 per group member. While solo dayhikers would see their costs go down slightly, hikers in a group would pay more—sometimes a lot more—under the new proposal, with the cost of a walk-up day use permit for 12 people rising from $25 to $126.
In addition to the fee changes, the new plan would shift the park’s wilderness permit reservation system over to Recreation.gov, which Zion already uses to manage bookings for its established campgrounds and Angels Landing trail. (The permit program for Angels Landing, which the park introduced last year in an attempt to manage crowds, will remain unchanged.)
Visitation to Zion has steadily trended upward over the past few decades, with the park breaking 4 million visits in 2016 and welcoming 4.7 million visitors last year. With that increase in visitation has come more maintenance projects: As the park points out on its website, fee dollars go toward projects like repairing trails, funding exhibits in park visitor centers, and paying for new infrastructure like water systems and accessible paths.
The park will accept public comment online until August 31.