Which National Parks Will Require Reservations This Summer?

April 24, 2021
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Over the past year, a slew of American travelers—their vacation plans dashed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting movement restrictions—have taken to the road in search of socially distant, wide-open, fresh-air escapes within U.S. borders. And, nothing quite fulfills those criteria and answers the need for an escape from cabin fever quite like our national parks, many of which saw an unprecedented surge of visitors in 2020, despite intermittent closures, limited availability of attractions and capacity caps.

Given this surge in demand, in order to combat overcrowding, some of the nation’s most-visited parks have implemented new ticketed-entry systems for day visitors, which also require them to have booked reservations in advance. A handful of national parks have already announced enhanced entry requirements for the 2021 summer season, Lonely Planet reported. Due to the parks’ increased popularity, day-use permits are expected to sell out quickly, so you may want to download Recreation.gov’s new app for ease of booking.

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Acadia National Park

With 3.5 million visitors a year, Acadia National Park, located in coastal Maine, is among the top ten most-visited national parks in the country. One of Acadia’s biggest draws, Cadillac Mountain—which, at 1,530 feet, is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and vaunts itself as the first spot in the U.S. to see the morning sunrise—will require vehicle reservations to be made in advance, online, between May 26 and October 19.

—Two ticketing options are offered. The two-hour “sunrise” reservation, with the admission timeframe ranging between 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., depending upon how daybreak times alter.

—The other is a daytime reservation that carries with it a 30-minute entry window, for which 30 percent of slots will be available 90 days in advance, with the remainder being released two days prior to each date.

—The cost of a reservation is $6 and does not include park entry fees.


Cadillac Mountain Bar Harbor Maine

Cadillac Mountain Bar Harbor Maine (photo via rickberk / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


Glacier National Park

Situated along a portion of the majestic Rocky Mountains in Montana, Glacier National Park will utilize a ticketed vehicle entry system between May 28 and September 6 in a very limited capacity. While most areas of the park do not require reserved entry passes, tickets are required to access the ‘Going-to-the-Sun Road’ (GTSR) between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The GTSR is a historic 50-mile stretch of asphalt built for the express purpose of offering visitors spectacular views of the park’s interior, filled with pristine forests, alpine meadows, magnificent lakes, rugged peaks and waterfalls.

—Tickets cost $2 per vehicle and are valid for seven days. They can be purchased by day visitors entering via Camas Road, St. Mary or West Glacier, in addition to usual park entry fees.

—75 percent of GTSR reservations will be available 60 days in advance, beginning April 29, with the remainder released two days in advance of each date.


Glacier National Park, Montana

Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. (photo via E+ / HaizhanZheng)


Rocky Mountain National Park

The fourth most-visited national park in 2020, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park boasts 415 square miles of granite mountaintops where visitors can experience over 300 miles of hiking trails, alpine lakes and meadows, and a variety of wildlife. The park will pilot a new pilot timed-entry permit reservation system between May 28 and October 11. Two types of reservations will be available. One will provide access to the whole of the park, including the busy Bear Lake Road corridor, between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The other, with a reservation period between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., will enable access to most of the park, excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor.

—Day-entry permits cost $2 apiece and do not include regular park entrance fees.

—Reservations open on May 1, with 75 percent of permits made available up to 30 days in advance and the remainder released at 5:00 p.m. on the day before each admission date.


Adams Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

PHOTO: Adams Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park. (photo by Andrew Konieczny/Dreamstime.com)


Yosemite National Park

California’s Yosemite National Park, renowned for its incredible waterfalls and immense granite rock formations (the best-known being El Capitan and Half Dome) will rely upon a ticketed entry system for day visitors between May 21 and September 30, which also applies to annual and lifetime pass holders. Day-use reservations, each good for one vehicle and its occupants, must be made in advance to enter the park.

—Day passes per vehicle cost $2 and are valid for three days, for entry between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. This does not include standard park entrance fees.

—Ticket sales are now open, with a limited number of bookings held back until one week prior to each entry date.

For more information, visit recreation.gov.



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