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TravelThese 9 national parks will require reservations this summer

These 9 national parks will require reservations this summer


National park vacations continue to be extremely popular, especially during the summer travel season.

Around the country, parklands welcome travelers seeking wide-open spaces and a change of scenery, whether they want to immerse themselves in the mountains, forests, canyons, coastlines or deserts.

However, the national parks’ surge in popularity has made spur-of-the-moment trips a bit more difficult. To ensure that visitors get the best experience possible, many of the country’s most popular parks now require guests to make advance reservations for their favorite park or trail. Even at parks where reservations aren’t strictly required, it’s still good to make one to avoid long waits for entry.

Rules around requirements continue to change, and campsites often fill up quickly. So, before you book that hotel or vacation rental near a national park, check the website of the park you plan to visit to keep up to date on current rules and conditions.

The following nine national parks require reservations — here’s everything you need to know.

Why are national parks requiring reservations?

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, advance reservations at national parks were introduced as a way to mitigate overcrowding and encourage social distancing. However, the popularity of national parks only continues to skyrocket, so reservation systems may be here to stay.

Yosemite National Park

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. NORADOA/ADOBE STOCK

Yosemite National Park is California’s most visited national park, and is currently experimenting with a “Peak Hours Plus” reservation system to help mitigate overcrowding. You will need a reservation to enter Yosemite National Park on the following dates:

  • From April 13 through June 30: You will need a reservation to enter from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • July 1 through Aug. 16: A reservation will be required from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
  • Aug. 17 through Oct. 27: You will need a reservation from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays, Labor Day (Sept. 2) and Indigenous Peoples Day (Oct. 14).

However, keep in mind that you do not need any additional reservations if you have already reserved a campsite or any other type of accommodation within the park. Those with wilderness permits (such as for backpacking, overnight climbing or other wilderness stays) or Half Dome hiking permits are also exempt from the peak-hours reservation rule.

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Glacier National Park

PETER UNGER/GETTY IMAGES

Through Sept. 8, Glacier National Park in Montana will require vehicle reservations for visitors to access major roadways and popular parts of the park during peak travel dates, including:

  • From May 24 through Sept. 8: Vehicle reservations will be required for the west entrance of Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • From July 1 through Sept. 8: Vehicle reservations will be required for the Many Glacier area from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In order to enter Glacier National Park at all, every visitor coming to the park by car, motorcycle or other motorized method of transportation will need a vehicle or service reservation and will also need to pay the entrance fee (or have a valid park pass on them). However, if you enter before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m., you can enter the park without a reservation.

Arches National Park

A backpacker standing underneath Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah. JORDAN SIEMENS/GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to the more than 2,000 sandstone formations found within its boundaries, Utah’s Arches National Park is an ever-popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The park has a timed-entry ticketing system in place through Oct. 31. You can expect to pay one of the following fees:

  • Private vehicles: $30
  • Motorcycles: $25
  • People entering with no car or motorcycle: $15

You will also need to pay the park entrance fee, have an annual Arches National Park park pass or hold an America the Beautiful—the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.

Arches passes are available on a first-come, first-served basis three months in advance and can be purchased at Recreation.gov. There are also a limited number of tickets available one day before entry, but these tickets usually sell out quickly.

Related: Explore Utah’s national parks with TPG’s guide to the ‘Mighty Five’

Zion National Park

JORDAN SIEMENS/GETTY IMAGES

Though Zion National Park in Utah has discontinued the use of ticketed reservations for the park’s shuttle service, those who intend to hike the iconic (and very popular) Angels Landing trail must apply for a permit, which is distributed via lottery.

The deadline for the Seasonal Lottery permit (which allows you to select a few dates when you would prefer to hike the trail in advance) has passed, but you can still apply for the Day-Before Lottery, which allows you to hike Angels Landing the day after you apply (and win). This lottery opens every day at 12:01 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. Mountain time. Lottery applications cost $6 per submission and cover up to six people (including the person filling out the form).

As usual, permits will be needed for things like rock climbing, backpacking and other specific trails, such as The Subway.

Related: This hotel near Zion National Park may be the best SpringHill Suites on Earth

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park. MICHAEL/ADOBE STOCK

If you’re planning to spend the night under the stars at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, you’ll definitely want to plan ahead. Though you don’t need a permit to enter the park, you will need an advance reservation to camp at most campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park.

  • Big Meadows: Available by reservation only.
  • Mathews Arm (temporarily closed due to wind damage): Some first-come, first-served sites are available, though reservations are recommended.
  • Loft Mountain: Some first-come, first-served sites are available, though reservations are recommended.
  • Lewis Mountain: Only accessible on a first-come, first-served basis. You cannot reserve sites.

A total of 800 tickets will be available each day from now until Nov. 30; 400 will be released 30 days in advance and the remaining 400 will be released five days in advance for Mathews Arm, Big Meadows and Loft Mountain campgrounds. Weekends and holiday slots get taken up quickly, so it’s recommended that you secure your place as soon as possible. Entrance fees still apply in addition to the day-use ticket.

Related: The best US national parks you should visit at least once (or twice)

Rocky Mountain National Park

SPARTY1711/GETTY IMAGES

The 415-square-mile Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado launched a timed-entry permit system in 2020, and it will remain in place for most areas of the park through Oct. 14. There are currently two permit options:

  • Timed Entry: This option includes access to the park and surrounding areas, except for Bear Lake Road. The permit allows entry from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Timed Entry + Bear Lake Road: Includes access to the park, surrounding areas and Bear Lake Road. This permit allows entry from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Timed Entry + Bear Lake Road permits will continue through Oct. 20.

You don’t need the timed-entry permit if you already have a reservation for other services such as in-park camping, horseback riding or commercial tours. Also, keep in mind that construction is happening at the Fall River and Grand Lake entrances to the park, so be prepared for delays.

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park. DERMOT CONLAN/GETTY IMAGES

Visitation to Acadia National Park in Maine has jumped by 60% in the past decade. To combat overcrowding, the park has implemented a vehicle reservation system for one of the most popular drives in Acadia: Cadillac Summit Road.

To take in the route’s magnificent views of the coast (go at sunrise for a truly sublime experience), visitors will need to get a vehicle reservation from now through Oct. 27. Thirty percent of vehicle reservations are available up to 90 days in advance, while the remainder will be released at 10 a.m. Eastern time two days ahead of time. They cost $6 a pop. Be aware that certain areas of the park may be closed, and permits are still required for activities such as conducting research or rock climbing.

Haleakala National Park

WESTEND61/GETTY IMAGES

Taking in the sunrise over Maui’s highest peak in Haleakala National Park is considered a bucket-list experience. However, be aware that you will need to make special Haleakala Sunrise Reservations in advance. A reservation is required for every vehicle entering the park from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. Reservations can be made online 60 days in advance, with a portion of reservations released 48 hours in advance. Also, cell service is almost nonexistent at Haleakala, so take screenshots or physical copies of your tickets and park pass.

Related: TPG’s favorite national parks: A month-by-month guide

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. ITAI MINOVITA/GETTY IMAGES

Though you can enter the park whenever you like, reservations and permits are required for backcountry and frontcountry camping (aka car camping) within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The system is open for reservations for most campgrounds up to a year in advance, with the exception of the frontcountry campgrounds and horse camps, which are only available up to six months in advance. Reservations and permits are also required for all overnight stays in the backcountry.

Unlike most national parks, Great Smoky Mountains does not charge an entrance fee. However, a parking tag is required for any vehicle that’s parked within the property for more than 15 minutes. There are three types of tags available, which apply to all vehicle types and sizes:

  • Daily: $5
  • Weekly: $15
  • Annual: $40

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