Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Fees Will Begin in 2022: Everything You Need To Know
On Monday the National Park Service announced the addition of entrance fees to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore as well as increases in current fees for camping and lighthouse tours. This move had been expected since last spring when the idea was put forth to the public. While we’ve seen some online backlash as can be expected with any kind of fees, most people we talked to fully understood why this move was necessary. We completely support these user fees and consider them a bargain for what the lakeshore offers. From the NPS press release: “Earlier this year, a proposal to add an entrance fee and increased fees for camping and lighthouse tours was presented to the public for review and comment. Public comments collected via a park website over the summer were generally positive. Many people specifically supported using collected fees for park improvements directly related to visitor enjoyment, access, and health and safety, which is required by policy and law.” Today we will take a look at when the fees start and how they change over the next three years.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore covers more than 73,000 acres in Alger County. It boasts 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, with 15 miles of that being the sandstone cliffs that the park gets its name from. Popular destinations within the park include the Grand Sable Dunes, Sable Falls, Log Slide Overlook, Miners Falls, Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, Grand Portal Point, Miners Castle, Miners Beach, Munising Falls, the Au Sable Point Lighthouse, and the Sand Point Marsh. While this park is most heavily visited during summer months, it also attracts a crowd in winter months due to its plentiful ice climbing opportunities.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore continues to see record attendance each year. This trend began in 2015 with more than 723,000 visitors (smashing the previous record of 593,000) and has kept going with no end in sight. 2016 saw 777,000 visitors, 2017 saw 781,000 visitors, 2018 saw 815,000 visitors, and 2019 saw 858,000 visitors. 2020 attendance shattered all previous marks with 1.2 million visitors. To put that in context, it was double the amount of visitors the park saw in 2012! This kind of growth is unsustainable without an infusion of funds, as park projects have continued to back up over the past few years. In order for everyone to keep enjoying this magnificent park, entrance and use fees are absolutely the answer to ensuring that parking lots, restrooms, trails and more are maintained and/or expanded.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore fees break down as follows:
January 1, 2022 – Campground fees increase from $20 to $25
Au Sable Lighthouse tours increase to $5 per person
March 1, 2022 – per person 7-day pass (walk, bike) $5
7-day motorcycle pass – $10
7-day vehicle pass – $10
Annual pass (good for 12 months) – $20
January 1, 2023 – per person 7-day pass (walk, bike) – $10
7-day motorcycle pass – $15
7-day vehicle pass – $20
Annual pass (good for 12 months) – $30
January 1, 2024 – per person 7-day pass (walk, bike) – $15
7-day motorcycle pass – $20
7-day vehicle pass – $25
Annual pass (good for 12 months) – $45
For a comparison study we took a look at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the Lower Peninsula. Current fees for Sleeping Bear are $20 for a 7-day motorcycle pass, $25 for a 7-day vehicle pass, and $45 for an annual pass. Like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sleeping Bear has seen record attendance over the past few years (1.7 million visitors in 2020!) so we know that entrance and user fees aren’t keeping people from visiting and enjoying Michigan parks.
As far as the increase in campground fees, anyone who has ever tried to reserve a site at Pictured Rocks will tell you they are hard to get. There’s little chance these sites won’t still be full with a small increase of $5. The campgrounds have been one of the harder hit areas with staffing the last few years, and more campers means that waste and septic services have increased as well.
We love this move for the future of one of our favorite places in the entire state. This move surely won’t be popular with everyone, but we feel that the current growth in park visits needs to be met with an increase in park revenue. We look forward to seeing all the great things the National Park Service can do with this money, and will be purchasing our first annual pass in June.