12 Most Expensive National Parks (And Where To Go Instead)

SAVING & SPENDING - TRAVEL
Save money by visiting alternatives to popular national parks and preserves.
Updated April 11, 2024
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Traveling and camping can already be a workout for your top travel credit cards, from long plane trips or car rides to expensive gear and more.

Some national parks, though, are pricier than others due to various factors. Keep reading for the most expensive national parks and some wallet-friendly alternatives.

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Grand Canyon National Park

Jill Clardy/Adobe south rim grand canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona is one of the most popular park destinations, as well as tourist spots in general. However, it costs $35 per vehicle and $20 per person most days, not to mention other travel costs like gas or airfare.

For a cheaper and less busy nature trip, visit Canyonlands in Utah, which provides a similar alternative experience.

Yellowstone National Park

west7megan/Adobe bison walking near spring

Travelers can visit Yellowstone National Park for $70 per year, $35 per vehicle, or $20 per person, except on free entry days.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of mountains and hot springs/volcanoes without facing steep entry fees and crowds, try Lassen Volcanic National Park in California for only $10-$15 per person.

Everglades National Park

JUAN CARLOS MUNOZ/Adobe aerial view of Everglades National Park in Florida

Taking a trip through the Everglades in Florida is a wonderful experience for nature lovers, but it isn’t cheap. Admission fees alone are $35 per vehicle and $20 per person. Guided tours cost additional fees, anywhere from $40 to over $200.

A cheaper but still gorgeous alternative is Big Cypress Swamp, which is a fee-free park with ranger-led tour options.

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Quattrophotography/Adobe Sequoia and Kings Canyon landscape at sunset

Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California are home to some of the most beautiful natural sights. Still, their admission fees are on the pricier side — $70 annually, $35 per car, and $20 per person.

A great alternative is Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California, which is free to visit except for Gold Bluffs Beach, which requires a $12 permit during part of the year to visit.

Yosemite

Stephen/Adobe sunrise on yosemite valley

Another gorgeous but pricey California state park is Yosemite. Aside from the entry fees, you also have to reserve your entry time for an additional fee. You have to pay even if you’re just driving through, though it’s only $2 extra.

Instead, visit King Range National Conservation Area, which doesn’t require a permit unless you plan on staying overnight. This coastal conservation area is undeveloped, nicknamed the Lost Coast.

Joshua Tree

Dmitry/Adobe joshua tree park

Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderful place to go hiking, camping, climbing, stargazing, and more, but the entry fee is yet again on the steeper side.

If you want an equally scenic yet more affordable camping or hiking trip, check out Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. The entry pass is only $10, or $35 for the year.

Glacier National Park

ricktravel/Adobe Glacier national park montana mountains and lakes

Seeing a glacier in the United States is a truly breathtaking sight — hence the steep entry fees to Glacier National Park in Montana. Not to mention, the park is packed during the busy season.

A great alternative is North Cascades National Park in Washington state, which also has glaciers, mountains, and campgrounds. Plus, it’s a fee-free park unless you plan on camping.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Adobe bryce canyon national park

Utah is home to some of the country's most stunning natural landscapes, but many of its most popular parks, like Bryce Canyon, have pricey entry fees.

Instead of paying high fees just to battle dense crowds, take a trip out to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park in Utah, which is only $10 per vehicle or $25 per night if camping.

Zion National Park

stuart/Adobe the narrows of zion national park

Another gorgeous but dense and pricey Utah national park is Zion. While the views are stunning, the fees are steep, and the park is crowded.

Instead, visit Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, which has red rock scenery and a geological wrinkle in the earth to explore, for a cheaper entry fee.

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Death Valley National Park

Bill Perry/Adobe landscape view of Death Valley National Park in California

Death Valley National Park is a very intense hiking and camping destination, but it is incredibly beautiful and unique nonetheless. Although fees can be steep, it’s a huge tourist draw.

Instead, visit Mojave National Preserve. This national park also features beautiful desert landscapes, unique wildlife, and more, but there’s no entry fee unless you’re camping overnight.

Grand Teton National Park

skiserge1/Adobe Sunrise in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Hikers and travelers in search of beautiful snow-capped mountains will likely have their sights set on Grand Teton in Wyoming, but the steep entry fees can be a deterrent.

Instead, head to Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. A permit is required for the trails, and there's a small nightly camping fee, but it's not as pricey as Grand Teton.

Denali National Park

evenfh/Adobe denali in alaska during day time

Many people flock to Denali National Park in Alaska to see the northern lights, as well as for general camping, mountain climbing, and more. The entry fee is only $15, but it isn't the only spot to see the northern lights.

Instead, visit Gates of the Arctic, which has no entry fee and views of the northern lights.

Bottom line

Monkey Business/Adobe family hiking in uk lake district

There's certainly no shortage of options for gorgeous national parks and preserves, but many of the bigger names are crowded with tourists and expensive, from entry fees, camping fees, guided tours, and more.

Take a chance on less popular but no less gorgeous parks. You'll keep more cash in your wallet and get a more unique experience while you're at it.

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Lucy Clark Lucy Clark has considerable experience writing about real estate, as well as homes and gardens, home value, and more. She is savvy and resourceful, and she aims to ensure others can be, as well.

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