In the new year, prices are going up to camp in the Los Padres National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service announced the fee increases this week, saying it authorized a concession company to raise prices at 33 campgrounds and a Monterey County day-use site.
The spots are all managed by Parks Management Co. In 2016, the Forest Service approved a special-use permit for the private company to take over operations at 40% of the sites in Los Padres, including several in Ventura County. At the time, the Forest Service said a lack of funding and staffing prompted the management change, which led to new fees, in some cases, doubling former prices.
For the past six years, nearly all of the fees have stayed the same, Los Padres officials said this week. But they said the company requested increases for 2023 to offset rising costs, including recent hikes in California’s minimum wage.
The changes include:
- Fees for individual campsites to increase $10 per night, the lowest price rising from $20 to $30.
- Fees for group campsites to increase $25 to $50 per night depending on site capacity. Current prices range from $100 to $150 per night.
- Entrance fees for the Pfeiffer Beach day-use area in Big Sur to increase from $12 to $15.
- Fees at other day-use sites are expected to stay at $10 per day.
- The new fees take effect Jan. 1.
Los Padres sites not operated by Parks Management Co. either allow free entry or accept an Adventure Pass, which costs $5 per day or $30 annually. Camping is free at more than 50 campgrounds in the forest, Los Padres spokesman Andrew Madsen said.
Conservation group Los Padres ForestWatch raised concerns about the fee hikes, including that the Forest Service allowed the increases without providing the public a chance to review the proposed changes or provide input.
The higher fees may push campers to seek out more remote, informal sites that could create unsanitary conditions, increase wildfire risk and hurt sensitive habitat, the group said. The increases also tend to have a disproportionate impact on low-income families, potentially creating barriers to access.
Cheri Carlson covers the environment for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0260.