People who buy an annual pass at one of four national parks in Northern California and Southern Oregon can use it to visit all four parks in 2023.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Crater Lake National Park and Lava Beds National Monument agreed to honor each other’s annual passes, according to the National Parks Service.
We want to provide “access to these national treasures to as many people as we can,” Lassen Volcanic National Park’s Chief of Interpretation, Education and Volunteers Kevin Sweeney said.
Starting Jan. 1, Whiskeytown’s annual pass ($55) gives holders access to the other three parks, Supervisory Interpretive Park Ranger Scott Einberger said. Sharing passes “makes sense” because the parks already collaborate on programs and share some employees.
It makes geographic sense, too, said Visitor Services Manager Marc Blackburn at Lava Beds and Tule Lake National Monuments. The parks are within several hours’ drive of each other. Park staff hope sharing passes will encourage people visiting one park to make the drive to one or more others.
He also hopes it will encourage pass holders to play year round, Sweeney said. “Most (people) think of visiting national parks as a summer activity. We’d like to encourage visitors to experience their parks in the less-visited winter/spring seasons.”
Getting a multi-park deal may further push up attendance at parks that experienced hard knocks over the past few years.
COVID-19 pandemic restrictions kept guests away in 2020 and 2021. Wildfires ― including the massive Dixie Fire in Lassen in 2021 and the Caldwell Fire in Lava Beds in 2020 ― destroyed large sections of parks and devastated nearby communities at the height of their annual tourist seasons.
Guest numbers climbed in 2022 after a tough 2021 season for Whiskeytown and Lassen.
Lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in late 2021 and a calm fire season likely helped boost Whiskeytown’s popularity in 2022. Park attendance reached “well over one million” people, Einberger said, a 25% increase over 2021.
Some guests returned to Lassen this year after attendance took a hit in 2021 due to Dixie Fire smoke and closures, Sweeney said. The park averaged 400,000 and 500,000 guests annually since 2017.
Not all parks saw guests numbers go up this year.
Visits to Lava Beds dropped, possibly due to gas prices and inflation, Blackburn said. That’s after a disappointing 2021, when park visits dropped to 103,000; down from 109,000 in 2019 and 111,000 in 2020.
But he’s optimistic about the future. “My feeling for 2023 is that it (visits) will be high,” Blackburn said.
The pass collaboration is part of a larger trend to get people to visit their national parks, Sweeney said. “Other parks have similar arrangements throughout the country.”
The National Parks Service sells a multi-park pass that gives holders access to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, monuments and other sites. Cost is $80. For more information go to https://bit.ly/3HNq1Pu.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter@RS_JSkropanic and onFacebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work,please subscribe today. Thank you.