Adventure Travel Wilderness and Hiking Trails Fees Rise

The good news for adventure travel and wilderness hiking trails is that the USA has protected some of the most unique and incredible places to see on earth. Our National, State Parks, Monuments and Wilderness Areas are awesome, but for years there have been reduced number of visitors. Many citizens have said that a four-year program to increase national parks entrance fees to make them more uniform may discourage some Americans from visiting their national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion and Yellowstone.

The National Parks have been faced with a budget crisis. The parks are struggling to protect the historic, cultural and natural resources that the parks were created for. The parks are short of funds for operating facilities, repairs to roads, bridges, trails and buildings. There was an 814 million dollar shortfall in 2006. There are almost 400 areas of protection covered by the National Parks Service. Almost every park has fewer full time employees now than in 2001, while there were over 273,000,000 visitors to the parks in 2005. The park service needs more funding to provide education, interpretive and for the safety requirements of their visitors. This is a time of controversy about park fees, current plans for oil, gas and mineral exploration in our parks and of course removing the O’Shaughnessy Dam to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite.

Recently the federal government has moved to replace the National Park Service’s $50 annual pass with a new $80 multi-agency pass. Some people think that the fee increases are getting out of line. The park service raised entrance fees at 34 parks over the past two years and plans to raise them at another 124 parks in 2008 and 2009. At Glacier National Park in Montana and Joshua Tree National Park in California, the fees will go up twice, and beginning in 2011, park officials plan to increase fees every three years, based on inflation. There is a proposal to double entrance fees next year at Crater Lake National Park, now $10 per car. Will it drive the local visitors away? In 1997, when the park service began raising fees, the number of national parks visitors has fallen 1% while entrance fee revenue has gone up almost 16%. Many of them are from outside the United States and love to visit the American protected lands.

Will the National Park Centennial Act to rescue our parks before 2016 – the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service? The acts purpose is to eliminate the annual operating deficit and maintenance backlog in the national parks. If it passed, it was to create a check off box on American tax returns to fund the parks. As H.R. 1124 and S 886 it did not get passed in 2006. In spring of 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report about our National Parks based on research, to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that found that funding had not kept pace with need, requiring park managers to reduce services including, “reducing visitor center hours, educational programs, basic custodial duties, and law enforcement operations, such as back-country patrolling. Additionally, the park system has been forced to close campgrounds, shorten operating hours, eliminate many interpretive programs, lay off many seasonal rangers, and eliminate many of the parks’ scientific studies programs.

So where’s the good news? Being an outdoor writer and avid traveler to our parks and wilderness areas Bob Therrien, President of TrainingPASS Sales, Inc. has created an outdoor recreation message board, he commented “The hardest part over the years, for me has been the research about which parks, hikes, climbs, locations and activities I want to visit with my family and friends. Exploring federal then state website after site, then mapping the distance from each area of interest is inefficient and many times lacking in information. To solve that inefficiency we have collected all the basic information about our parks, wilderness areas and national monuments and put them into one website. I don’t personally have a problem with the new park fees. It cost’s me more to take my family to the movies, and I’d rather enjoy a full day or two at a place like Denali National Park.

The USA has incredible adventure travel wilderness and hiking trails. To promote these areas AdventureZoneTOURS created a forum for sharing trip reports on National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas.

The Outdoor Adventure Message Board opens up to reveal a listing of U.S. States, separated into travel regions. Click on any state region and there are sub forums for all the parks, monuments and wilderness areas in that region. Many times there are several interesting choices to pick from within a state region. For the activity-specific minded, AdventureZoneTOURS.com encourages users to share trip reports for a variety of outdoor activities from hiking, climbing, canyoneering, geo exploring, photography, ghost towns, mines, and cave to water sports such as boating, fishing, jet and water skiing, tubing, rafting, and scuba. Winter travel sports such as snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding are featured. Hunting locations, ATV and horseback trails as well as the most scenic areas for outdoor photography are also available as individual topic posts. To research or share your favorite adventure travel location, and to share and promote outdoors, join us today!

National Park Freebies – Ten Tips to Trim Your Travel Budget

Although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to visit one of over 400 national parks and recreation areas across America. From free admission and tours, to special programs and even transportation, there’s no shortage of freebies to be had in these beautiful public lands. And although many of these cost-saving deals are well advertised, some are held as closely guarded secrets. With that in mind, here are ten tips to help trim your travel budget on your next national park visit.

  • US Citizens with a permanent disability can get a free Access Pass, which is good for free admission to all national parks, recreation sites, national monuments and wildlife refuges. Passes can be obtained at entrance kiosks, with proof of citizenship and disability. The pass also offers a 50% discount on campsites and boat launch fees.

  • Active members of the military can also get a free annual pass by presenting their Common Access Card or Military ID (Form 1173). This pass is available to members of all branches of the military — including reservists and National Guard members — and it has the same benefits as the Access Pass.

  • Many parks have free cell phone tours. For example, In Olympic National Park, visitors can call (360) 406-5056 to get recorded information on different areas of the park. Consult the park newspaper to see if a cell phone tour is available.

  • If you’re traveling with someone who can’t walk very far, check with the park visitor center, as many times they have manual wheelchairs for loan.

  • Some parks offer free tours on a first-come basis. Over in Zion visitors can take a free 90-minute ranger-led bus tour of Zion Canyon. Seats are limited and can only be reserved in person at the visitor center, up to three days in advance. It’s always a good idea to inquire at the visitor center whenever you visit a park, as that’s how you’ll discover freebies like this.

  • While we are on the subject, rangers are an excellent source of free information, so don’t hesitate to ask them for specific suggestions. On one visit to Yosemite, a ranger clued me in that Washburn Point was an excellent stop for wheelchair-users. This information wasn’t in the park newspaper, but the ranger knew because her brother was disabled.

  • Take advantage of the free shuttle buses in many parks, as they will save you time and frustration. For example, in Bryce National Park parking is limited along the main park road, but folks that take the optional shuttle bus dodge the parking hassle and have more time to enjoy the park.

  • If you have kids in tow ask about the junior ranger program at the main park visitor center. To become a junior ranger a child has to complete activities in the free junior ranger activity book, then have them checked by a ranger. If all goes well, they are sworn in as a junior ranger. It’s a fun way to encourage kids to learn about the natural environment while they explore a park.

  • If you have a fourth grader in the family you’ll be able to save even more money this year, thanks to the Every Kid in a Park Initiative. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service all fourth graders will receive a season pass for their family, good for admission to all parks in the 2015-2016 school year.

  • Last but not least, everybody gets free admission on national park free entrance days. These include the National Park Service Birthday (August 25), National Public Lands Day (September 26) and the first weekend of National Parks Week (mid-April). There’s also no admission charge on Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Jr Day, and Presidents Day weekend.

Travel Trend Research Using Google Trends – Part 2

In Part 1, you learned about Google Trends and how to research the interests of vacation and holiday travelers. We used the tool to compare different travel types, and to determine their relative popularity and seasonal trends over multiple years.

In Part 2, we’ll analyze searches for different types of destinations such as parks, beaches, museums and golf courses. Remember, our research assumes that Google searches indicate travel behavior. The information we discover will help us understand the interests of travelers around the world.

So what types of destinations do travelers want to visit? To start finding the answer, go to Google Trends (see the address at the end of this article) and submit this search: “national park, state park, county park, regional park” (with the commas but without the quotes). When the page reloads, you’ll see a line graph of the search phrases over multiple years. The relative heights of the lines show that national and state parks are more popular than county and regional parks. The peaks and valleys of the lines show that interest is seasonal, with interest highest in June and July (meaning summer in the northern hemisphere) and lowest in December.

The lower half of the page shows the regions and cities where the searches originated. For example, interest in national parks is high in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Now let’s look at search results for other destination types. Because the y-axis on the graph is relative, we will use “national park” as a constant in the comparisons. That way we can compare, for example, beaches vs. theme parks without having to submit them in the same search. This is necessary because Google Trends only allows the comparison of five phrases at a time.

As we try different destination types, we’ll see that some destinations are less popular than national parks. For example, search for “national park, theme park, water park, scuba diving, ecotourism”. Some of the destination types reach their highest popularity in July, such as the strong peak for water parks and the weaker peak for theme parks.

Now try “national park, shopping mall, shopping center, ski area, ski resort”. These last four destination types have peaks of varying height in December.

To drill down into more detail, you can pick specific destinations such as this search: “national park, Disneyland , Disney World, Six Flags, Sea World”. Note the relatively continuous popularity of the Disney parks and Sea World throughout the year, while Six Flags gets the most interest in July.

Camping and campgrounds are seasonal, of course, with strongest interest in July. More interesting is the fact that “camping” (meaning the activity or perhaps the type of equipment) is much more popular than “campground” (the place). Try it yourself: “national park, camping, campground”.

Golf courses and golf clubs have similar popularity and seasonal trends (with strong peaks in July) to national parks. To see for yourself, search for “national park, golf course, golf club”.

Other destinations are much popular than national parks, such as in this search: “national park, beach, mountain, museum”. Beaches have a wide range of seasonal interest, with a peak in July and lowest interest in December, though beaches remain more popular than any other destination type. The seasonal trend of mountains and museums is mostly flat, except mountains have a wide peak from December to February (ski season?) and museums have a sharp peak at the end of December (school break?).

Looking deeper into the seasonal popularity of beaches, we can see it depends on the beach’s distance and direction to the equator. For example, where summers are hot and winters are cold, beaches tend to be more popular during summer-such as the USA in August or Australia in December. Where temperatures are more constant (such as in Hawaii), beaches remain popular throughout the year. Try it yourself: “Sydney beach, Mexico beach, Hawaii beach, Texas beach, France beach”.

Using these research techniques, you will better understand the interests of travelers around the world.