Table of Contents Show
- How COVID-19 Affected the National Parks
- You Need a National Park Reservation for These Parks in 2021
- How Long Will This Last?
- How to Get a National Park Reservation
- Reservations Prevent Overcrowding
Have you heard of the new national park reservation system affecting some of the US national parks?
Some national parks have been implementing reservation and permitting systems for specific areas for a while now. But for some parks, the reservation system is all new!
In this article, we talk about the six US national parks using a reservation system and why it all started in the first place.
Let’s get into it!
How COVID-19 Affected the National Parks
Many national parks closed to the public in the spring of 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19. Some parks opened back up later in the year at limited capacity and adhered to social distancing recommendations.
Life looks a lot different for many industries because of the pandemic. Some parks are still operating at limited capacity, and a few national parks now require reservations for entry!
You Need a National Park Reservation for These Parks in 2021
Some of our national parks required permits or reservations for certain activities within the park to help cut down on traffic. As of right now, six parks require reservations: some for entry and some for specific times or activities.
Here are the details on national park reservations.
Glacier National Park Reservation
Glacier National Park has a 50-mile scenic drive called Going-to-the-Sun road. Driving this road is one of the most popular activities in the park. As of right now, park visitors need a reservation and entry ticket to take this scenic drive.
You don’t need a reservation for the rest of the park, but plan ahead if you want this drive on your activities list!
Don’t worry; making a reservation is easy and affordable. Start by getting a national park pass, and then you’ll need either a $2 entry ticket reservation or a service reservation. You can reserve services like lodging, camping, boat rides, etc., and it will act as an entry ticket to take this scenic drive.
You can reserve an entry ticket online or by calling. Don’t wait until the last minute; these tickets sell out fast!
Rocky Mountain National Park Reservations
Rocky Mountain National Park has a reservation system to prevent overcrowding in 2021 from May 28 to October 11.
This national park reservation system is a timed-entry permit system with two kinds of permits. One gives you access to the entire park, including the Bear Lake Road Corridor. The other lets you enjoy all park sites and excursions, excluding the Bear Lake Road Corridor.
Reservation availability depends on parking lot capacity. Currently, they’re allowing parking lots to fill up to 85% before they stop letting people in. This is an increase from the 60% they allowed last year.
Acadia National Park in Maine requires reservations for driving up Cadillac Mountain. You do not need an entry ticket for the rest of the park.
Acadia is one of the nation’s smallest national parks, so traffic jams and congestion are typical. Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular destinations, so the Parks Service created a reservation system to help prevent overcrowding.
Sunrise reservation windows are 2 hours long, and daytime reservation windows are 30 minutes long. Each permit type costs $6, and you must purchase it online.
Yosemite National Park
The Yosemite National Park reduced capacity to 50% during the height of COVID-19. In 2021, the reservation system has increased to allow between 50% and 90% capacity.
You need reservations for any Yosemite activity, and you must display your ticket on your dashboard everywhere in the park.
To make your reservation, you’ll need an account on recreation.gov. Available dates are released seven days at a time, so if you want to book August 30, August 23 is the first day it will be available. According to the park website, reservations sell out almost immediately, so plan to get online seven days before your travel date!
Once you snag your reservation, read 10 Incredible Things You Must See In Yosemite National Park with your RV to plan your itinerary.
Hawaii’s Haleakala Park Reservation System
Hawaii’s Haleakala National Park first implemented a reservation system in 2017. Because so many visitors head to the top of the dormant Haleakala volcano to watch the sunrise, the park implemented a reservation system for visits between 3 am and 7 am daily.
You don’t need a permit if you plan to visit this park after 7 am. Please note that you cannot make reservations at the gate, so get your tickets ahead of time.
How Long Will This Last?
For some parks like Acadia and Haleakala, the reservation system is likely to last long-term. As national parks grow in popularity, the reservation and permitting systems work to prevent overcrowding. We may even see this trend spread to other busy U.S. National Parks.
It’s unclear how long the reservation systems will last, but keep in mind that it’s for the benefit of the parks and will ultimately create a better visitor experience for you.
How to Get a National Park Reservation
You can reserve a permit or a ticket for any of these national parks online at Recreation.gov.
While you can make some park reservations in person, it’s best to make these reservations online to ensure you get a spot. Nobody wants to plan a fun park day only to be turned away at the gate!
Reservations Prevent Overcrowding
Not only do national park reservations prevent overcrowding, but they also ease the burden on the park environment, wildlife, and staff.
Remember that national parks are more popular than ever this year, but many lack the infrastructure and resources to handle the additional visitation. While it may seem like a hassle or an unfair system, the reservation systems are in place to enhance your experience. And, they couldn’t have made it any easier to reserve your spot!
With a little extra planning, you can still have amazing experiences in U.S. national parks without the overcrowding. Now, doesn’t that sound nice?
We’ve been on the road for a couple of months and just left Grand Teton after two weeks at Colter Bay Village. Yesterday we waited an hour just to enter YNP’s south entrance. This was at 9:30 am. We were just passing through to take the East Entrance to Cody. The key to all the National Parks was to get up before sunrise. If you weren’t in Arches before seven, forget about it. While we were there it closed every single day by 8 am. So then folks trying to go there diverted to Canyonlands, where the wait to get in grew to two hours. So then, the overflow was flooding into Dead Horse Point SP. Moab was like being in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, only 90 degrees hotter. Zion was a madhouse. If you weren’t inside the park before 7:30, all the parking was gone, forcing you to use expensive paid lots in Springdale. The hiking trails in Zion Canyon were like LA freeways at rush hour. At Grand Teton, if you wanted to hike any of the popular trails, such as Taggart Lake, or take the boat across the lake, get there before eight or plan to park miles away. What we would do is park across the street from the Moose Visitors Center and ride our EBikes on the bike trail to Jenny Lake. We’ve visited White Sands, North & South Rim, Zion, Bryce, Moab, and GTNP & YNP so far. All have been overcrowded to the point of unbearable at times. Bryce is another park that’s perfect for bikes. Even when they close it for cars, you can still use their great bike path to enter the park and ride all the way to Inspiration Point (and to Red Canyon in the opposite direction.) it’s been a challenge this trip, and we’ve learned some valuable lessons. One is that it’s pollen season for the Lodge Pole Pines In GTNP and YNP, and we now have a bright yellow RV. Another lesson is that I’ll return to my usual late August, September schedule of visiting these places. Maybe they’ll be a tiny bit less insane and maybe Moab won’t be 106 degrees.
You actually do need an Entry Ticket to just get into Glacier National Park at three entrances, West Glacier or St. Mary, or via the Camas Road. The way it was originally worded it did seem it was only for the Going to the Sun Road, but we’ve spoken to people at campgrounds we’ve been staying where they were turned away at the entrance gate as they did not have an entry ticket. If you look on their website they’ve reworded it a little.