In July, Mountain High announced they must implement their own parking pass for the campgrounds, trailheads, picnic areas, and lake included in their Concessionaire Campground and Day Use permit. A concessionaire agreement is when the US Forest Service issues special permits for private companies to operate the campgrounds or land instead of the government. Mt. High’s most recent Concessionaire agreement has grown. It now includes three more campsites at Appletree Campground, Grassy Hollow Campground, and Peavine Campground, two trailhead parking lots at Inspiration Point Trailhead and Vincent Gap Trailhead, picnic areas at Mescal Picnic Area, Arch Picnic Area, Grassy Hollow Picnic Area and the Northshore Fishing Site at Jackson Lake.
These locations were previously covered under the Forest Service Adventure Pass, which is $30 for the year, but now the Big Pines parking pass replaces it and can be used at any of the locations previously listed. The cost for the Big Pines Pass is $30 for the season or $5 per day. During the peak summer season, parking was $10 per day at Jackson Lake from Friday through Sunday unless you purchased the Big Pines Pass. Street parking is still available along Big Pines Hwy in front of Jackson Lake, but is covered under the Adventure Pass. People tend to park here with neither pass but should be warned that it’s a park-at-your-own-risk area where the Forest Service could ticket cars if they don’t display an Adventure Pass.
For now, Mt. High will still honor any pre-purchased Adventure Passes for any picnic areas and day-use sites at Arch Picnic Area, Grassy Hollow Picnic Area, and Mescal Picnic Area, but it excludes Jackson Lake. Mt. High still operates Table Mountain Campground, Mountain Oak Campground, Lake Campground, and Jackson Flats Campground, but the Big Pines Pass is optional for these locations. Instead, reservations and payments for these individual campsites must be booked in advance. Most of the campgrounds close November 5th and nightly rates start at $30; reservation info can be found online on the Mt. High website. But the Big Pines Pass is required for the three newly added campgrounds at Appletree Campground, Grassy Hollow Campground, and Peavine Campground since these locations have no reservations or nightly fees but are based on a first-come-first-served basis.
Usually, the Forest Service would charge minimal fees for camp and picnic sites to provide low-cost or free access for taxpayers to enjoy nature. As a government entity, they focus on maintaining the public lands, not necessarily running a business or making money. Now, Mt. High, as a private company, can use the fees to help pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the select locations while adding amenities or providing improvements. According to Mt. High’s website, they assured visitors that is exactly what their plan is: “We will continue to reinvest funds into the landscaping and janitorial services in these areas to provide you with the best summer experience possible.”
Some of the most notable changes were made this summer at Jackson Lake. Water sport rentals like kayaks, paddle boards, and fishing gear were available to rent on the weekends from Friday to Sunday. Prices varied based on 2-hour rentals or half-day rentals. A 2-hour rental for a fishing rod was $10, and renting a paddle board or single kayak was $30 for 2 hours. The rentals are no longer offered since the summer season is over, but visitors may still bring their own water sports equipment and fishing gear throughout the year. Fishing licenses are required and can be purchased directly online at wildlife.ca.gov.
As for the Forest Service Adventure Pass, the $30 season pass still goes towards the upkeep and maintenance of California’s National Forests, including the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Los Padres, and Angeles National Forests. An Adventure Pass is needed to access the popular OHV sites in the Cajon Pass at the Baldy Mesa OHV Trailhead or the Summit OHV area. This pass offers more camping in nearby Lytle Creek or the popular Big Rock Creek Campgrounds in Valyermo. Passes can be bought at Mountain Hardware, Big Pines Visitor Center, or online at https://www.myscenicdrives.com/store/item/forest-passes/southern-california.