Zion National Park is set to witness a significant hike in camping fees and other related charges starting in 2024. This move, as announced in a recent park news release, marks a strategic shift in the park’s approach to managing its growing visitor numbers and maintaining its facilities.
Zion National Park stands as the third most visited park in the United States, according to a 2022 ranking by USA Today. The park’s popularity has necessitated infrastructural improvements, including the recent completion of road repairs at the Kolob Canyons entrance, which has reopened access to the park’s northern section.
Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park superintendent, explained the rationale behind the fee increases. “We adopted these changes to improve accessibility and visitor service,” he said.
The additional revenue is earmarked for maintaining essential facilities like restrooms and drinking water systems, rehabilitating campsites, and streamlining the application process for Wilderness Recreation Permits.
The fee adjustments, which will be implemented at different times throughout the year, will affect various aspects of the park’s services.
The Watchman Campground, which operates year-round, will see a 50% increase for electric sites and a 75% increase for non-electric sites from July 1.
The South Campground and Lava Point Campground will also adopt the new rates upon opening in the spring. Additionally, a new $5 fee will be introduced for using dump stations by non-campground guests.
Starting January 5, 2024, Recreation.gov will become the sole platform for purchasing wilderness recreation permits.
These permits are essential for daylong activities such as canyoneering or the 16-mile day hike of the Virgin River Narrows. The transition to Recreation.gov is expected to offer advantages like centralized applications for all reservations and lotteries, and improved communication with permit holders via email and text messages. The park’s Angels Landing Pilot Permit Program will continue as it has since 2022.
The fee increase extends to overnight reservations in Zion’s backcountry, which will rise from $5 for advance reservations to a $20 charge. Similarly, walk-up permits that were previously free will now cost $20. This shift to per-person charges for groups is anticipated to significantly increase the park’s revenue.
The revenue generated from these increased fees will be allocated to addressing the heightened maintenance needs due to heavy visitation. This includes cleaning services, trash removal, road servicing, and campground maintenance. Moreover, Zion is also planning improvements to the entire South Entrance area, including the South Campground.