While it's impossible to put a dollar value on towering peaks, pristine forests and America's cultural history, a new report suggests that the country's national parks have an economic impact that extends beyond their boundaries.
Released on Monday, the report from the National Park Service states that recreational visits to the 401 units of the National Park System in 2012 resulted in $14.7 billion in spending in "gateway" communities — those within 60 miles of a park. Factoring in the secondary effects of that spending, those expenditures supported 243,000 jobs and contributed $26.8 billion to the national economy.
"Our parks are economic engines for local communities," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. "They support business ranging from motels and restaurants to gas stations and tour companies and, of course, the people who work in those businesses."
(Read more: US consumers earned—and spent—more in January)
As the owner of TMC Vacation Rentals in Packwood, Wash., Maree Lerchen is among them. Located seven miles from the southwest entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, the remote community also offers access to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.