An Expensive Road Trip Awaits

Gas Is ExpensiveBetween rising gas prices and increasing entrance fees, a road trip to your favorite local National Park may be pretty expensive this summer. This story idea comes from the Park Remark Tipline (in fact, this particular reader sent me two ideas, the second of which will appear later this week). The reader was not happy to see that the entrance fee to Yellowstone was rising to $25 at the same time Park services are being cut. Pay more, get less. It made me wonder if there was a way to find an approximate real cost of a park visit, specifically a road trip visit. If you've ever been on a road trip, you'll know that there are plenty of ways to spend your money while traveling. I have tried in this post to boil it down to the most common expenses.

Here is what I've done. I have looked up the top ten cities by population and paired them the ten most visited parks last year. Using directions generated from an online Microsoft map program, I have calculated the round trip distance to nearby popular parks. I've tried to find the average fuel economy for cars on the road today. It was difficult to find this number exactly, but most figures seemed to float between 20 - 25 for highway, so I'll use 23 as a typical "Miles per Gallon" calculation. AAA has given me today's national average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded at $2.901. Throw in the fee needed to enter the park, and the cost of two nights at a park campground and we've got the charts below.

New York, NY
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL
Great Smokies1460$184.15Free!$34$218.15

Los Angeles, CA (similar results for San Diego, CA)
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL
Grand Canyon892$112.50$10$36$158.50

Chicago, IL
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL
Great Smokies1200$151.35Free!$34$185.35
Rocky Mountain2088$263.36$20$40$323.36

Houston, TX (similar results for San Antonio, TX and Dallas, TX)
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL
Rocky Mountain2260$285.05$20$40$345.05
Great Smokies1962$247.46Free!$34$281.46
Grand Canyon2758$347.86$10$36$393.86

Philadelphia, PA
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL
Great Smokies1284$161.95Free!$34$195.95

Phoenix, AZ
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL
Grand Canyon532$67.10$10$36$113.10

San Jose, CA
ParkRT MilesGasGateCamp x 2TOTAL

For Fun:
Seattle -> Everglades (Round Trip: 6798; Gas: $857.43; Gate: $10; Camp: $32) TOTAL $899.43
San Diego -> Acadia (Round Trip: 6654; Gas: $839.27; Gate: $20; Camp: $40) TOTAL $899.27