Did You Know? According to the National Park Service, 84% of visitors have experienced overcrowding when visiting a national park.
Overcrowding has led to frustrating situations. Traffic jams leading into the parks, overflowing parking lots, littered trails, and threats to wildlife. Many have even been turned away at the entrance due to overcrowding, and this has ruined plans for those who long for a source of beauty, reflection, and solace that our National Parks provide.
In response, the National Park Service has worked on solutions to manage visitation to make it not only a better experience for the visitor, but also to protect the precious ecosystems. Many parks with high visitation have implemented strategies such as reserved and timed entry. By planning ahead, visitors can still have a stress-free and safer experience, allowing them to fully appreciate everything these parks have to offer.
With national treasures such as Yosemite, Arches, and Rocky Mountain National Parks seeing a steady increase year over year, it is important now more than ever that we preserve their beauty.
Know Before You Go
We’ve outlined the new visitation policies for a few of the most visited parks, so you can plan ahead of time to make the most out of your National Park experience.
Acadia National Park. A shining star of Maine’s rugged coastline, Acadia’s claim to fame is Cadillac Mountain. This is the first spot in the continental U.S. to see the sun rise between mid-October and March, so needless to say, it’s popular!Summer, in particular, sees record numbers, so between May 25 – October 22, 2022, Acadia has implemented a seasonal vehicle reservation system for those who wish to drive Cadillac Summit Road to the top of the mountain.
- The entrance fee to Acadia National Park is $30 per car, valid for 7 days.
- Reservations are required to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain, are $6 per vehicle and can be made at recreation.gov.
- If your chosen date is sold out, note that a block of reservations are held back until 10am EST two days prior so that last-minute travelers have a chance to book. If possible, try to book at 10am two days before as these reservations sell out quickly.
- The Island Explorer Shuttle does NOT traverse Cadillac Summit Road.
- While reservations provide a timed entry, there is no required departure time. The park closes at 10pm EST.
- No reservations are required for those who hike or bike in, and entrance is free.
Arches National Park. A geological marvel, The Delicate Arch graces the license plate of Utah and the state holds the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. National Park officials have implemented a timed-entry reservation system from April 3rd through October 3rd, 2022.
Tickets are available online at recreation.gov or by phone: 877-444-6777.
Glacier National Park. The illustrious Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor is the highlight of Glacier NP and offers unparalleled beauty high up in the mountains.
- Going-to-the-Sun Road reservations can be made through recreation.gov.
- Those with lodging, camping, and commercial tour reservations around the West Entrance, Camas, or St. Mary Entrances at Glacier NP do not need a vehicle reservation to drive the Corridor.
- Tribal members, landowners in the vehicle reservation area and their guests, or those who enter by foot or bike do not need a reservation.
- Glacier NP does not require reservations for Sun Road before 6am or after 4pm.
- The North Fork entrance does not require reservations before 6am or after 6pm.
- North Fork reservations can be made via recreation.gov.
Haleakalā National Park. A popular feature of this park is the epic sunrise. Meaning “house of the sun,” Haleakalā is a Polynesian word. Folklore suggests that the demigod Maui climbed the top of the mountain to lasso the sun and force it to travel more slowly through the sky to lengthen the day.
- Reservations are required to access the park from 3am – 7am daily at recreation.gov.
- Online reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance and are released at 7am HST.
- A portion of the reservations are released 48 hours in advance to allow for last-minute bookings.
- Visitors can purchase only one sunrise reservation per three-day period.
Muir Woods National Monument. The breathtaking beauty of these rare, old-growth redwood trees lies just 15 minutes north of San Francisco. It is among the smaller sites in the National Park Service system, yet it draws millions of visitors each year.
- Parking or shuttle is available, and advance reservations for both are required.
- Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance at gomuirwoods.com.
- Shuttle service is only available on the weekends and is $3.50/person.
- As there is no Wi-Fi or cell phone service in the park, you should download your parking pass on your phone in advance.
- A few same-day reservations are available online, but book as early in the day as possible. Onsite reservations are NOT available.
- Cyclists can enter the park for free without a reservation, but the road to the entrance is a challenge on two wheels.
Rocky Mountain National Park. A magnificent mountain park featuring 60 peaks soaring over 12,000 feet into the clouds. With permanent glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, wildlife, and cultural treasures, it’s no wonder this national park sees high visitation.
- Timed-entry reservations are required from May 27 through October 10, 2022 and can be made at recreation.gov.
- Reservations for the next month become available on the first day of the previous month beginning at 10am MDT. For example, reservations for July become available beginning June 1.
- About 30% of reservations will be held back and made available for last-minute purchases the day before at 5pm MDT.
- Choose from 2 types of reservations: 1) a two-hour window to enter the park, with full access from 5am – 6pm. 2) Full access to the park EXCEPT for Bear Lake Road corridor from 9am – 3pm. Reservations are not required outside these times.
Shenandoah National Park. The Old Rag Trail is the primary draw of the Shenandoah. It is 9 miles long with 2,600 feet of elevation gain, which includes a rock scramble. Despite the trail’s challenging terrain, thousands make the trek each year for the amazing 360-degree view at the top.
- Tickets for the Old Rag Trail are available up to 30 days in advance of the desired date at 10am EST and are available at recreation.gov.
- Additional tickets are released five days after the desired date at 10am EST on a rolling daily window.
- Any remaining tickets after the first two booking windows will be available for purchase the day of.
- Be sure to make reservations in advance, as there is no cell phone service at the Old Rage Entrance.
- Tickets are $1 USD, in addition to the entrance fee to the park. Day-use tickets do not guarantee a parking spot, so arrive as early as possible.
Yosemite National Park. The 3rd largest park in California boasts 750,000 acres of natural beauty. And yet the vast majority congregate in the smaller Yosemite Valley because of its large concentration of epic viewpoints, resulting in overcrowding.
- Reservations are now required from 6am – 4pm from May 20 through September 30, 2022 and can be obtained at recreation.gov.
- Each reservation is good for a 3-day visit to Yosemite National Park.
- If your desired date is sold out, note that additional reservations are released seven days before your date at 8am PST. Be sure to try to book during this time, as reservations are taken almost immediately.
- Yosemite does not require reservations for arrival after 4pm.
- Reservations cost $2 USD with an additional $35 USD per-car entrance fee.
Zion National Park. Angel’s Landing Trail is by far the most popular trail and as such, reservations are required. Those with an appetite for adventure (ie. not a fear of heights) will want to explore this fantastic trail.
- Reservations can be made at recreation.gov and must be downloaded ahead of time as cell phone service is sparse at the park.
- Permits are required to hike Angel’s Landing and are issued by the lottery system 1-3 months prior, and again one day prior.
- Three different time slots are given: before 9am; between 9am-noon; after 12pm.
- Visitors apply for the lottery only once and can be for up to 6 people.
- A non-refundable $6 USD fee is charged to enter the lottery, and permits are $3 USD per person.
- A confirmation email must be shown to park staff upon entering.
- Hikers must have a permit at all times; however, visitors can hike the West Rim Trail from the Grotto to Scout Lookout trailhead without a permit.
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