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Young hiker sitting in Zion National Park
unai | Adobe Stock

10 Key Things to Know About National Park Reservations This Summer

SmarterTravel

Planning a national parks trip this summer? You’re not alone—many national parks across the country have seen a huge increase in visitors since the start of the pandemic, as people increasingly seek outdoor vacations. 

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 prevent overcrowding.

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

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
Jake | Adobe Stock

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 26 through October 19. 

Tickets cost $4 per vehicle, and can be purchased here. Daytime and sunrise tickets are available in 30 minute arrival time slots, and 30 percent of the times will be available to purchase 90 days before the reservation date. Two days before the reservation date, the remaining 70 percent of tickets will be opened up for purchase. 

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, Montana
ricktravel | Adobe Stock

To get almost anywhere inside Glacier National Park, you’ll need to drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. However, from May 28 to September 6, 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 5pm. 

Haleakala National Park

Person hiking in Haleakala National Park
MNStudio | Adobe Stock

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

Elk grazing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Margaret | Adobe Stock

Rocky Mountain National Park is implementing a new timed entry permit reservation system for visits beginning on May 28. 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 28 through June 30. More reservations will be released on the 1st of each month at 10am MDT, and 25 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.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
f11photo | Adobe Stock

Tickets will be required for anyone who wants to visit Yosemite National Park by private vehicle from May 21 through September 30. Reservations must be made ahead of time and will not be sold at the park. Reservations on recreation.gov will cost $2, in addition to the $33 price of a three-day vehicle entry ticket. Each reservation guarantees entry for a three-day period.

Tickets will be released on a weekly schedule that can be found here.

Zion National Park

Zion Canyon at Zion National Park
Julien | Adobe Stock

Although no reservation is needed to visit Zion National Park, visitors will need to reserve tickets ahead of time if they want to take the Zion Canyon Shuttle, which runs through areas of the park not accessible by private vehicles. The shuttle runs seasonally spring through fall. Tickets will be released twice a month (on the 16th and last day of each month) at 9am MST on recreation.gov. Shuttle tickets are free, but there is a $1 reservation fee for each ticket.

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