Bryce Canyon to increase backcountry fees, make changes to reservations

An undated photo of people camping at Bryce Canyon National Park. On Friday, the park announced changes in how to get a campsite that begin next year.

An undated photo of people camping at Bryce Canyon National Park. On Friday, the park announced changes in how to get a campsite that begin next year. (Peter Densmore, National Park Service)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK — Some increased fees and campground reservation changes are coming to Bryce Canyon National Park next year, after large crowds returned to the park in 2021.

Park officials on Friday announced they will go forward with a plan first proposed in August, albeit with some alterations.

Beginning in 2022, backcountry permits will cost $10 with an additional fee of $5 per person, replacing the current flat fee of $5. The park initially proposed a $15 fee plus a $7 per person per night fee; however, officials said that many in the public comment process "expressed concern" that the proposal would make backcountry camping experiences less accessible for some visitors.

Changes are also coming in how to get a spot at the park's two developed campgrounds at the start of next year.

Reservations will now be needed to secure a spot at the North Campground between May 27 and Oct. 1 annually, replacing the first-come, first-served model that has existed year-round to date. People can still secure a spot at the campground without a reservation during any date outside of the reservation requirement period.

Those seeking to use the Sunset Campground can still secure a spot using the first-come, first-served model between April 15 and Oct. 31. Spots at its group site will still have to be reserved in advance between May 20 and Oct. 15.

No changes were made to the park's tent or RV site fees, which remain $20 and $30 per night, respectively. The $5 dump station fee will also be included in those fees beginning in 2022; the fee will remain $5 for visitors who aren't staying at either the North or Sunset campgrounds.

The decision to add a reservation system for the North Campground was based on it having more RV pull-through sites and better cellphone reception to make reservation check-ins easier to use, according to park officials. Campsite reservations for next year, which can be made through recreation.gov, went on sale Saturday.

The changes come as larger crowds have returned to Bryce Canyon National Park again this year. While this year hasn't produced record-breaking numbers like some other members of Utah's "Mighty 5," it has produced visitation levels on par with record visitation over the past few years.

Over 2 million people have already visited the national park this year, according to preliminary park visitation data submitted to the National Park Service updated through October. Visitation at Bryce Canyon only topped 2 million for the first time in 2016 but it has since reached that figure four times over the past five years, with 2020 — a year where visitation across all parks was sluggish after a COVID-19 shutdown — the lone exception.

Overnight stays within the park's backcountry have increased 36% over the past decade, park officials noted back when they first proposed changes to permit fees and campground reservations earlier this year. They said at that time that the price hadn't changed during the increase of visitation and the new fees aim to help the rising maintenance and administration costs.

About 80% of backcountry fees collected are used to fund backcountry permit operations, as well as search and rescue operations that have increased as more people head outdoors. The fees also help provide free loans of wildlife-resistant food containers in addition to backcountry campsite, signage and trail maintenance, according to park officials.

Most of the other fees also go toward maintenance inside the park.

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