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Travel

Cost of Communing

National parks embark on a four-year program to raise fees.

Nature lovers who haven't visited a national park lately may be surprised at the higher cost of communing with nature. Last year, the National Park Service began a four-year program to simplify fees throughout the park system. The result: 23 parks raised entrance fees in 2006; 12 bumped prices up this year; 41 are scheduled for increases next year; and another 86 are on the markup list for 2009 and beyond. Starting in 2011, fees will go up every three years at the rate of inflation.

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Resistance at the local level could be enough to quash hikes not in effect already, at least for a while. That's what happened at Yosemite National Park, where fees were to increase this year from $20 to $25 a car, but will now remain flat until next summer or maybe even later.

The most expensive parks will cost $12 per person or $25 per vehicle to enter. That's not a lot for a one-time summer vacation to Yellowstone. But it can add up for locals who visit regularly, especially when you add fees for lodging, demonstrations, ranger-led tours and the like.

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