Planning a national parks trip this summer? You’re not alone—national park visitation is steadily rising back to pre-pandemic levels. Despite the overall dip in visitation across the parks system in recent years, many individual parks broke their previous visitation records during the pandemic, bringing to light the need for a way to minimize overcrowding.
Previously, national parks only required reservations for certain popular trails, attractions, or camping. However, some popular parks have decided to require reservations (in the form of advance ticket sales) just to enter the gates this summer, in order to better preserve these ecological landmarks.
Tips for National Park Reservations
- Plan ahead: peak times (like weekends) will likely sell out quickly, so check to see when tickets will go on sale and be ready to book.
- Remember that the time zone for ticket releases are in the park’s local time, so be sure to set your clock accordingly.
- Create an account on recreation.gov and save all your information before tickets go on sale. This will let you check out quickly once it’s time to buy tickets, which can be crucial for getting a coveted reservation.
- Check with the individual park’s website directly through the National Park Service to find out any advance requirements for entry or activities.
Here are the national parks that are currently requiring reservations:
Acadia National Park
Although Acadia National Park isn’t requiring reservations to enter the park, you will need a ticket if you want to visit one of the most popular attractions—Cadillac Mountain Summit Road. You can hike up to this scenic spot without a ticket, but you’ll need one to drive up from May 24 through October 22.
Tickets cost $4 per vehicle, and can be purchased here. Daytime and sunrise tickets are available and pass holder can begin their drive any time within 90 minutes of the time shown on the ticket. From May 24 through July 1st, reservations will only be available to purchase two days in advance of the reservation date to accommodate the road’s repaving schedule. From July 1st through October 22nd, 30 percent of the times will be available to purchase 90 days before the reservation date, while the remaining 70 percent of tickets will be opened up for purchase two days before the reservation date.
Glacier National Park
To get almost anywhere inside Glacier National Park, you’ll need to drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, from May 26 to September 10, you’ll need to purchase a $2 per vehicle entry ticket (in addition to the standard Glacier National Park site pass) to drive along the road. The majority of tickets will be released 60 days in advance on recreation.gov, with the remaining being released two days in advance of the entry date. Didn’t snag a ticket? Reservations are only required for Going-to-the-Sun Road between the hours of 6am to 3pm.
Haleakala National Park
The summit of Haleakala volcano is such a popular place to watch the sunrise, that the park has been requiring reservations well before the pandemic, and this year is no different. Reservations will be required for each vehicle entering the park from 3am-7am. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance on recreation.gov, and cost $1. No advance tickets are needed to enter the park after 7am.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is implementing a new timed entry permit reservation system for visits beginning on May 26. Two types of permits will be available: Bear Lake Road Corridor (which includes the entire park as well) or a general park permit (excludes the Bear Lake Road Corridor area).
Reservations began on May 1, and are needed to enter the park between May 26 through October 22. More reservations will be released on the 1st of each month at 8am MDT, and 40 percent of tickets will be held for purchase at 5pm MDT the day prior to the visit date. Tickets are free and available on recreation.gov, but there is a $2 non-refundable “reservation fee” per vehicle.
Arches National Park
From April 1 to October 21, visitors must make reservations to visit Arches National Park between the hours of 7am and 4pm. Tickets are on a per vehicle basis and, like Rocky Mountain National Park, are available for just the $2 processing fee from recreation.gov.
Reservations can be purchased 3 months ahead of the reservation date at 8am MT, meaning reservations for April will be available in January, reservations for May will be available in February, and so on.
Some tickets will remain available for purchase at 6pm MT one day prior to the listed reservation date, but these are in high-demand and tend to be snatched up quickly.
Shenandoah National Park
While visitors can still access Shenandoah National Park with just the standard park entrance pass, now through November 30th guests must purchase an additional day-use pass to hike in areas on and around Old Rag Mountain between the hours of 12pm and 12am.
Tickets are $1 per person and must be purchased online or over the phone—no tickets are available for purchase at the park. Of the 800 daily tickets available, half will be available for purchase within 30 days of the reservation date and the remaining half will be available 5 days prior to the reservation date. Tickets are limited to 4 per person.
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