Wyoming Considers First-Of-Its-Kind Fee For Hikers

Brian Carpentier | BackcountryBackcountry | Industry NewsIndustry News
A trail crew making repairs in Guernsey State Park, Wyoming. Photo credit: Facebook

Wyoming is considering becoming the first state to charge individuals for hiking on trails in Wyoming. The proposed $10 annual fee being contemplated by lawmakers would also apply to other non-motorized trail users like mountain bikers and Equestrians.

Unlike National and State Parks which usually charge a per vehicle or per person entry fee to gain access to a breadth of park facilities such as roads, toilets, and picnicking areas, the new fee would apply to hikers whether or not they are using other infrastructure besides trails. The initiative stems from the State’s current lack of funding for trail maintenance on public lands.

Volunteers make up for a lack of funding for Wyoming Trails. Beck Lake Bike Park. Photo credit: Facebook

Advocates of the proposal point out that other public facilities that require maintenance, such as camping sites, already charge additional fees so the maintenance costs associated with trail upkeep justify the charge. Motorized Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) users are already charged a fee in many areas of the nation. Wyoming charges an annual $15 fee for ORVs operating on publicly maintained trails. In each of these cases, the primary users of these facilities and areas provide for their continued upkeep by paying a fee.

A Mountain Biker enjoying a Forest Service trail in Wyoming. Photo credit: Facebook

Detractors of the proposal are concerned that a fee would discourage some hikers and bikers from getting out and enjoying the outdoors in a way that has always been considered a “free” activity. Some user groups could unintentionally be driven away from a beneficial use of public lands and trails. Visitors from out of the area who have a day to spend on one of Wyoming’s trails might not see the value in an annual trail pass and choose another activity during their short stay.

More concerning is the potential impact on first-time users of the trail system. Getting an indoor cat to go outside for the first time is already hard enough without convincing them that the $10 they could have spent on a 2 hour movie ticket will be spent instead on a healthy 2 hour hike in the woods. Every potential trail user lost in this way is one less person motivated to advocate for the preservation of the public lands they have enjoyed.

A Wyoming trail in need of a drainage solution. Photo credit: Facebook

What advocates and critics of the plan both agree upon is that funding for trail maintenance needs to be increased. State officials hope the proposed plan would raise $1 million annually for trail maintenance. That $1 million would be a great addition to Wyoming’s budget for trails, but some argue it would not go far enough with the State’s approximately 10,000-mile trail system.

Another complication is whether the State will be able to charge for and maintain trails on Federal land as well as State land. Federal law says that individuals cannot be charged when “walking through…or hiking through Federal recreational lands and waters without using the facilities and services.” That could make it unfeasible for the state to collect the fee on Federally controlled public land. With trail projects underfunded both at the State and Federal level across the nation, Wyoming’s proposed fee raises a great question about the value of the nation’s trail system.

Related Articles

4 thoughts on “Wyoming Considers First-Of-Its-Kind Fee For Hikers

  1. I do not see a problem, I live in Montana and currently pay a $10 fee annually to recreate on state land. I can understand that $10 can seem expensive when you are visiting for a weekend, but for people that live in the state or visit more than twice a year it is nothing. Make your coffee at home or camper rather than stopping at Starbucks. The budget for our national forests keep getting cut each year, eventually they will be cut so far we can not keep up with any up keep. Thus making it a greater point for the radicals to convince the feds to give our public land up to the states. In Montana if state land does not make a profit it will be sold, as in Oregon and many other state laws. I am a construction worker that works my ass off and would not care to give $10. I try to support my public lands through organizations such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Trout Unlimited, and my local mountain bike clubs. I would gladly give $10 a year to help keep my trails in good condition, its only 2.7 cents a day.

  2. This is from a state that voted near 69% for tRump/ Liz Cheney. They are for taking back Federal lands and are against the concept of National Parks and wilderness areas. I live in Wyoming.. pollution is progress and healthcare for sissies.. go figure. Thanks for informing everyone of the daily catastrophe called Wyoming State Government!

  3. Not too smart. Charging people to hike on lands that they already are taxed on? This will keep even more people away not attract them. I live in areas in Colorado they are charging people for trail head parking. Guess what happened? No one goes there anymore. Then the local economy looses out and people complain. It does not work. With the cost of living going through the roof and wages not ever keeping up people will just find other things to do rather then pay fees for something that has been free for the past 200 years in the United States.

Got an opinion? Let us know...