As people plan summer vacations while navigating COVID-19, many are looking toward the great outdoor spaces of our 423 national park sites. People yearn for the open spaces, the fresh air, the freedom. But before you hit the road, you might want to check on whether or not you need a reservation. This summer, some of the most popular national parks are implementing reservation systems to cut down on crowding.
Last year, the National Parks Service’s visitation was down 27.6% from 2019, with 237 million recreational visits, according to NPS stats. COVID-19-driven temporary park closures accounted for much of this, with 66 park sites closed for at least two months. It was the lowest visitation since 1980. NPS expects visitation to creep back up this summer as lockdowns end and those with cabin fever leave home to hike, camp and look for wildlife.
At Yosemite in California, visitors will need a day-use reservation to even get into the park. Annual and lifetime pass holders are not exempt. The pass costs $2 and is included in the $35 cost for a car to enter. It’s valid for three days. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado will begin a new timed entry permit system on May 28.
Some parks won’t require reservations to enter but will limit access to certain popular features. In Acadia National Park, visitors love to drive up Cadillac Mountain for the views. From May 26 through October 19 this year, visitors will have to book a sunrise or daytime slot to go up the mountain. At Montana’s Glacier National Park, one of the most popular activities is driving the iconic Going to the Sun Road. From May 28 to September 6, the park will adopt a new ticketed entry system for vehicles. All of these reservations are only $2 on top of the vehicle entry permits.
Before you load your tent in the car, check this NPS site to view restrictions at your national park destination. Remember to pack some face masks, as they’re required in places where you can’t maintain physical distancing as well as inside all NPS buildings and other facilities.
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