Author Topic: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?  (Read 14151 times)

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Offline Stevenp

National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« on: April 21, 2011, 12:14:51 pm »
I am considering purchasing the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass with the idea of camping more in those parks. Now, I guess this particular pass does not cover camping.

Does anyone know of any pass that can be purchased that would help with the idea of camping in safe, nice campsites in parks? Is there any sort of pass like that?

Also, what are the general fee prices for national parks? Is it far more expensive or would it be worth it if I had the America the Beautiful Parks Pass?

Thanks guys!

Offline DaveB

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2011, 12:43:46 pm »
As far as I know, you need either an annual pass for the National Parks or you pay a daily entry fee and that's just to get into the parks themselves.  Camping is an entirely different cost and paid for separately.  Park entry does not cover overnight camping.

Go to the NPS web site and you will find all of the details.

Offline John Nelson

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2011, 01:12:53 pm »
Regular camping fees in National Parks can be pretty steep. I paid $17 per night at Mammoth Cave and $20 per night at Rocky Mountain National Park. It's much better if the park has hiker/biker sites, but quite a few of the National Parks do not. I paid $7 a night for a hiker/biker site in Grand Teton and $6 a night in Yellowstone. As far as I know, there's no such thing as a camping pass.

Entrance fees for bicycles at National Parks are normally significantly reduced below the motor vehicle fee. Once you know how many parks you're going to hit, you can do the math to see if the pass makes sense. I can't hit enough parks on my bike to make a pass pay by itself, but if I am also planning to hit some parks in my car during that year, it might make sense.

Offline hem

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2011, 01:57:17 pm »
For those of a certain mature/senior age (62) can for $10.00 get a life time National Park pass. http://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm

Offline Stevenp

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2011, 03:54:37 pm »
I saw that, but I'm not there yet. :) I wonder if AAA has something that would help with camping?

Offline valygrl

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2011, 09:31:37 am »
You often do get an AAA discount when camping in RV parks (Remember, the second A in AAA is "Automobile".)  Since I have that anyway, I use it.  Works at motels of course too, and there are discounts for a surprising number of other random things, but most auto-related.  One of the most useful things about AAA is you can get free maps and camp books - and the camp book all types of camping - from forest service to RV park.

There is no universal camping pass for all the national or state parks.  Some state park systems have an entry pass (Colorado) like the NPS's (National Park Service) pass.  But again, that's just entry, not camping.

The NPS pass just covers entry fees, as mentioned, and is only going to be of use to you if you plan to ride through more than about 4 parks, or if you plan to use it in parks the rest of the year while not bike touring.  I've had one for years, since I tend to go to a lot of rock climbing places and cycling areas in parks. 

The least expensive formal/pay camping is usually NFS (National Forest Service) campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management), which are fairly common in the western US, and usually cost $6-12.  There is no pass for these.   BLM and NFS both have web sites, you could look on those to see if there are any map resources.

A lot of western states have a state recreation map that shows locations for the NFS/BLM camping in that state.  I don't know a resource where you can get it all at once - but I got my WY and CO ones in gas stations in-state.  Detailed Gazette style maps (like Delorme) also often note the camping locations, but this can be tough on the bike, as the locations aren't always clearly indicated - like you might get near there and fine it's 5 miles up some dirt road.

If you plan to camp in RV parks a LOT, some of them have their own specific membership passes (like Good Sam, I think), but I've never bothered with that, because on a bike you just can't pick which park you go to all the time, it's just forced on you by location.

I guess the closest thing to a universal discount card is the AAA membership.

Offline staehpj1

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2011, 09:49:41 am »
Not just in parks, but I always ask if they have a cyclist discount at lodging or campgrounds.  Especially in hotels/motels or private campgrounds they often give me a break even if I am the first person who ever asked.  If I am on a tour that sounds like an ambitious goal I make sure and mention where I am going to and from.  If going coast to coast or some other long tour it seems to help.

If that fails I also ask about an AARP discount.

Offline Ike

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2011, 02:19:34 pm »
A few years ago (with the exception of the Golden Age and Golden Access Passes), you used to have to purchase separate passes for federal sites. The Golden Eagle Pass covered US Forest Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Park Pass was only for national parks entrance fees. Today, the America the Beautiful Pass is supposed to cover all entrance fees to any federal area with one. Don't count on it to provide camping discounts. The America The Beautiful Pass will not provide discounts for camping in national parks and other federally run campgrounds usually won't honor it. AAA or other private discounts are not accepted at federal sites either.

Like others have written, entrance fees for national parks, and the extra campground fees, vary considerably from park to park. If you're planning a long cross country trip, you probably have an idea about what parks you'd like to visit and what national forests or other public lands you'll ride through. Since the pass won't provide discounts for NPS campgrounds, I'd contact the individual national forests, BLM sites, or other federal areas that I was determined to visit and ask what the pass actually covers. Entrance fees are almost universally covered so you needn't worry about that. Bicyclists riding into a park usually are charged less than an auto, but $5-10 per park can add up over the course of a summer. When the National Park Pass was $50, it was easy make the pass to pay for itself. Now, however, the America The Beautiful Pass is $80, so it is harder to recoup the cost. For a long cycling trip, especially in areas with lots of public land, I think it is a worthwhile purchase even if it is only used to cover entrance fees.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2011, 02:33:28 pm »
AAA and the America the Beautiful Pass seem complimentary. 

When we needed motel rooms in the east, AAA typically saved us $10/night; in the west, I was told a couple of times that "Everybody has AAA, so the price we quoted you is for AAA -- and we can give you the same price without it."

On the other hand, the bigger National Parks in the east (Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway) have no entrance fees, so the pass doesn't save you money here.  Go west, and you have to pay to get into most (if not all) national parks.  Yosemite used to charge the full "car" price for each bicycle, although I've read they backed off that recently.  (I wondered if it wouldn't be worthwhile for cyclists going into Yosemite to hitchhike through the gate, offering to pay the entrance fee if that pickup/RV could carry two or more bikes.)

It's not all bad, though.  Hiker/biker campsites were available at Tetons, Yellowstone, and Glacier, and all of those were less than half price compared to drive-in sites.  I think they were $5/night, or $5/night/person, a couple years ago.

You'll miss the fun of trading, though.  A couple of cyclists flagged us down going into the Tetons, and had a 7-day pass that was still good for 4 more days.  I took it, bought one for my daughter, and then we paid it forward with another pair leaving Yellowstone a few days later.  Two chances to stop and swap "over your shoulder" stories with two-wheeled tourists!

sackcycle

  • Guest
Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2011, 11:16:24 pm »
The RMNP entrance is $10.00 good for 7 days.

Offline bogiesan

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2011, 09:42:29 am »
You'll miss the fun of trading, though.  A couple of cyclists flagged us down going into the Tetons, and had a 7-day pass that was still good for 4 more days.  I took it, bought one for my daughter, and then we paid it forward with another pair leaving Yellowstone a few days later.  Two chances to stop and swap "over your shoulder" stories with two-wheeled tourists!

(gasp and horror) Does this unsavory practice not contribute mightily to the national debt?

Yellowstone entry fee for bikes was $12.00 in 2009.

david boise ID
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Stevenp

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2011, 12:22:12 pm »
So, what are the most common types of camping sites I am going to come across while crossing the country? Are parks with a fee the most common or are small campsites the most common?

Of course I will be stealth camping along the way also, but what will I be running into most along the way in terms of types of camping and prices?

I'm trying to get an idea of what I might be encountering. Mind you, my budget is not the loosest, so price will be a high priority when looking.

Ideally I would like to camp in places where there are others camping, but where I won't be spending $20 a night.

Thanks!

Offline John Nelson

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2011, 12:44:02 pm »
So, what are the most common types of camping sites I am going to come across while crossing the country? Are parks with a fee the most common or are small campsites the most common?

Of course I will be stealth camping along the way also, but what will I be running into most along the way in terms of types of camping and prices?

I'm trying to get an idea of what I might be encountering. Mind you, my budget is not the loosest, so price will be a high priority when looking.

Ideally I would like to camp in places where there are others camping, but where I won't be spending $20 a night.
Depends on what you're looking for. If cost is a big concern, then you'll probably tend to avoid the higher-priced camping. Some people are willing to pay for camping in exchange for nice showers, a picnic table, a leveled tent pad, a convenient store and a higher level of security. But if you are very price-sensitive, you'll be willing to compromise on these things. There's a whole range of stealth camping. Sometimes you're pretty sure that you're not suppose to be there, so you take measures to not be noticed. Other times, you think it's okay to be there, but you're not entirely sure. So you risk being rousted in the middle of the night in order to save money.

I avoid most commercial campgrounds, which tend to be higher in cost and lower in ambiance. National Park campgrounds are usually higher in cost (unless they have hiker/biker sites), but are typically worth it to be able to stay in a really cool place. National Forest campgrounds are usually less expensive, and sometimes free, but typically have fewer amenities. City parks are often my favorite, since you can usually camp there with permission from the police (and thus feel somewhat safe from being rousted), usually have bathrooms, and are within convenient reach of the service you need.

Bottom line is that it depends on what you're looking for. If you take two different touring cyclists traveling the same route, one of them might be camping free every night and one might be spending $20 to camp every night.

Of course, there are many other inexpensive or free alternatives to camping, such as Warm Showers, Couch Surfing, churches, fire stations, hostels, etc.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2011, 12:49:02 pm by John Nelson »

Offline staehpj1

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2011, 06:31:13 pm »
So, what are the most common types of camping sites I am going to come across while crossing the country? Are parks with a fee the most common or are small campsites the most common?
We probably stayed for free a bit more than half the time on our Trans America.  We stayed in small town parks in the vicinity of the picnic pavilion a good bit of the time (free).  We stayed in churches or peoples homes some of the time (free).  We stayed in hiker biker sites (often $6-8) when we could.  We stayed in an expensive campsite (~$20-30) like a KOA a handful of times.  We got a room once (~$50) and were treated to a motel room by a family member once (free to us).  Additionally we stayed in a teepee once (~$20) and rented a cabin once (~$20).  Most of those prices were split between three of us, but some of the hiker biker sites were per person.

I think we averaged a bit less than $5 per person per night, but it helped that we were splitting costs 3 ways.

Note that we stayed for free often, we stealth camped exactly 0 nights.   If I were doing it over there was one really crumby campground (Jerry Johnson Campground) where we could have stealth camped a few miles up the road.  On hind sight I might have stealth camped that one time if doing it over.

I should also note that which type of place we stayed at was often a function of what part of the country we were in.

In Oregon we stayed with hosts a few times, but often stayed in state parks.  The state parks there were awesome and cheap.

In the Rockies it was a mix of hosts, state parks, churches, and whatever else we found.

In the great plains we stayed in town parks a lot, but also got some invites from hosts.  We stayed free almost all of the time there.  In the east we stayed with friends, relatives, and friends of relatives a lot.  We stayed in some churches there as well.

It was a bit easier being on a route like the TA where the trail was fairly well blazed by other cyclists, but I stayed in similar places on more off the beaten track tours.  Given a choice between the two I like a route like the TA if one goes where you want to go.

Offline Stevenp

Re: National Parks PASS - Other PASS for camping?
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2011, 09:16:18 pm »
Really great info! Thanks!

So, I also anticipate staying in churches along the way. How do you usually get in contact with a church, or some place like that? Is this part of being organized a day or a couple of days ahead of time, or do you just appear and work out the agreements?

I am anticipating planning most every night what my next day will look like, including having a good idea of where I want to stay. Is that being too optimistic about my planning abilities (or just naive to the reality of the trip) or am I right about the planning that is involved with staying on top of things the night(s) before I arrive?