If you’re planning a visit to a national park this summer, you may need a reservation or special permit. Here are the locations requiring national park reservations this year.
Heading to a national park or two this summer? We highly recommend it! We’ve been to parks from Acadia in Maine to Yosemite in California, Big Bend in Texas to Denali in Alaska and have loved every experience! But our national parks have seen an explosion of visitors in the last few years, especially since covid, and that means they’ve also experienced a lot more negative and compounded impact over a short period of time.
Some parks’ solution? Require reservations to control how many visitors can enter the park on any given day. So when visiting some of the country’s most popular parks, it’s important to be aware of which ones require reservations to enter (or to hike certain trails) and plan accordingly.
Also important to note: Reservations still require you to pay the park entrance fee or have an America the Beautiful (National Parks) pass. What’s more, you can’t make reservations at the gate. In all cases, you have to book online at Recreation.gov.
National Park Reservations Required to Enter
Arches National Park
Starting this year, you’ll have to make a reservation to get into Arches in Utah between 6am to 5 pm. From April 3 to October 3, Arches is testing a timed entry reservation system to help manage traffic and improve visitor experiences (and anyone who’s been to Arches in the summer knows what a pain traffic and parking can be).
The park will release tickets first-come, first-served on Recreation.gov in monthly blocks 3 months in advance (for example, tickets for August will be available for purchase starting May 1, tickets for September will be available June 1). A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase one day in advance at 6 pm MDT. These will likely sell out quickly, so waiting isn’t the safest bet. Timed entry tickets require a $2 reservation processing fee.
Read more about timed reservations at Arches National Park here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
If you’re visiting from May 27 through October 10, you’ll need a timed entry reservation to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado (other dates don’t require reservations). There will be two different permits available: on with park access and Bear Lake Road valid between 5am to 6pm, the other without access to Bear Lake Rd. valid from 9am to 3pm (and we gotta say, having been there, Bear Lake is pretty cool).
Reservations open up a month in advance in most cases (e.g. reservations for August open up on July 1), but 25% to 30% of permits will be held and available for purchase the day prior to an intended visit at 5 p.m. They are timed entires, which means you must enter during the two-hour window you registered for.
Find out more about making reservations at Rocky Mountain National Park here.
Yosemite National Park
Heading to California? A reservation is required for Yosemite National Park during peak hours (6am–4pm) from May 20 through September 30 whether you wish to drive into or through the park and there is a $2 reservation fee. If you have a Half Dome or Wilderness permit you don’t need an entrance reservation.
Seventy percent of reservations for all dates from May 20 through September 30, 2022, will be available on March 23. Thirty percent of reservations will be available seven days in advance and will be released each day at 8am Pacific time. They’ll go fast, so be ready!
Learn more about reservations at Yosemite National Park here.
National Park Reservations Required For Certain Activities
Acadia National Park
Located in Maine, Acadia doesn’t require reservations for park entry (even though it’s one of the top 10 most visited national parks), but from May 25 through October 22, you need reservations to drive a vehicle up Cadillac Summit Road. The road is closed in the winter, but you can drive it from April 15 through May 24 without a reservation.
- Vehicle reservations go on sale on a rolling basis: 30% of vehicle reservations are made available 90 days ahead of each date and the remaining 70% are released at 10 am ET two days ahead of time, allowing for last-minute adventures. On the upside, you can park elsewhere and hike up to Cadillac Summit, which we have done and is well worth it.
Find out more about reservations at Acadia National Park here.
Glacier National Park
You’ll need a vehicle reservation if you plan on driving Going-to-the-Sun Road and/or entering the North Fork area of Glacier in Montana if you plan to visit between May 27 and September 11 (that’s when Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to vehicular traffic). And yes, we highly recommend driving this incredibly scenic stretch of road. It’s stupid gorgeous.
A portion of available vehicle reservations will be released 120 days in advance (e.g., vehicle reservations for July 1 are available on March 3). The remaining reservations will be released at 8 am MDT the day before (e.g., reservations for July 1 are available on June 30). Reservations are valid for three consecutive days and have a processing fee of $2. Alternatively, you can opt to take the free Going-To-The-Sun Road shuttle service if you didn’t get a reservation and cyclists don’t need a reservation, so if you want to ride the challenging route, go nuts.
Find out more about making reservations for Glacier National Park here.
Haleakala National Park
While you don’t need reservations to visit Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, you do if you want to catch the sunrise. Because it’s such a popular activity and the fact that there’s limited parking, sunrise viewing at the summit requires a reservation for each vehicle entering the park before sunrise (3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.).
Reservations are available on a rolling basis up to 60 days in advance, so the sooner you book, the better. But be advised: Tickets are limited to one per customer every three days, so don’t expect to book one every morning of your trip.
Learn more about making sunrise reservations at Haleakala National Park here.
Shenandoah National Park
From March 1 to November 30, as of this year, visitors to Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park who want to hike on extremely popular Old Rag Mountain, including the Saddle, Ridge, and Ridge Access trails, need an Old Rag day-use ticket, which must be reserved in advance. Each Old Rag day-use ticket will cost $1.00 and is only good for one hiker, so you’ll need one for everyone in your group.
According to the park website, 800 tickets will be available for every day. 400 will be released 30 days in advance of the reservation date, and the remaining 400 will be released 5 days in advance of each date, released daily at 10:00 a.m. if there are any remaining tickets after that, they will be available to purchase day-of.
Get more details about making Old Rag Mountain reservations at Shenandoah National Park here.
Zion National Park
While you don’t need a permit or reservation to enter Zion National Park in Utah, you will need one for specific popular hikes and areas, including stunning Angel’s Landing, and wilderness permits for Left Fork (The Subway) and Virgin River Narrows (plus other wilderness trails).
Wilderness permits start at $15 for 1-2 people plus a $5 reservation fee and must be obtained in-person at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center Wilderness Desk.
Angel’s Landing permits are awarded by lottery. You can apply for a seasonal permit on recreation.gov before your trip and pick 7 days and times you prefer to hike, then pay $6 to apply (the fee covers an application for up to 6 people). You’ll then pay $3 for each person you registered if your name is drawn. Alternatively, you can apply for a permit in the Day Before Lottery the day before your planned hike. You can do so every day between 12:01am and 3pm Mountain Time. The cost is the same ($6 application fee, $3 per person), and you’ll be notified by 4pm Mountain time the day you applied if your name was drawn.
Find out more about Zion National Park reservations and permits here.
Tips for Making Reservations at National Parks
- Typically, visitors with camping, lodging, or backcountry permits or reservations are exempt from making a separate entry reservation. Check the fine print for the park you’re visiting, but consider reserving a campsite or cabin if you missed the reservation window.
- Schedule a tour with a park-approved operator and you may not need a reservation for park entry.
- Print or download your permit to show to park staff. We recommend saving a screenshot to your photo folder for easy viewing.
- Don’t forget your National Parks Pass. It’s worth it if you’ll visit more than 3+ parks this year.
- Make reservations and most permit requests at Recreation.gov.
Hopefully that helps you plan your National Park adventures this summer! Good luck, have fun exploring, and wander on!
Alisha is a freelance writer and photographer based in Austin, TX. She loves her tiny house, vegan food and experiencing the community of travel in far away places. She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com