December 6, 2023

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National park tourism is booming. But an idyllic outdoor adventure can be ruined if one important aspect of travel planning is overlooked: advance licensing and booking.

Some of the most frequented parks require people to make advance reservations to gain access to popular attractions, such as well-trafficked hikes, trails and campgrounds. Some require tickets purchased in advance to gain access to the entire park.

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This means: travelers do not necessarily expect to spontaneously appear in National Park and get the experience they want. Failure to obtain the paperwork, which is usually free but may cost as little as a $2 processing fee, could even prevent you from being admitted. Due to the high demand for reservations, it is necessary to plan ahead.

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Audley Travel travel consultant and senior US specialist Mary Cropper said getting permission in advance was “one of the things people miss the most”.

Rules vary by park. Sometimes, for travelers who can’t get it in advance, there may be a way around them.

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Tourists pour into Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, on July 14, 2021.

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Reservations are one way parks address congestion.

Americans are flocking to national parks in 2021 and 2022 as a way to travel abroad and vacation at home during the pandemic This has been difficult due to health concerns and international travel restrictions.

Eighteen parks broke annual visitation records in 2021, according to the National Park Service dataOne of them — Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas — saw record numbers of visitors last year.

Total National Park Visits jumped By 2022, a 5% increase compared to the previous year to 312 million passengers.While not a record number, last year’s visits were just over 5% below the National Park Service’s peak in 2016 CentennialNPS spokeswoman Kathy Kupper said.

Cooper said the National Park Service does not forecast future visitation.

These national parks require vehicle reservations

Traffic to Yosemite Village on October 6, 2019 in Yosemite National Park, California.

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Most parks do not currently require appointments to enter — though that number is expected to increase in the coming years.

Many of those who do have them started their reservations in the pandemic era, though some started before 2020.

Glacier National Park in Montana, for example, did so in 2021.California’s Yosemite National Park did just that in 2020 — despite the park’s disuse 2023 requirements.

These bookings are assessed per vehicle.Parks require motorists to use them to access certain roads, such as Glacier Xiangyang Road.

Vehicle reservations for the following parks are in effect for 2023:

Acadia National Park in maine

arches national park in utah

glacier national park in montana

Hale Kala National Park in hawaii

rocky mountain national park in Colorado

Zion, Rocky Mountain, Acadia, Yosemite and Glacier are each among the top 10 most popular national parks for 2023, according to the data NPS data.

Permits may be required for popular hikes, campsites

Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park

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Also, Zion National Park in Utah advance permission required – Available through a lottery – for visitors to take the Angel’s Landing Hike, one of the most popular destinations in the park.Yosemite license required Hike to the top of Half Dome, as does the Arch fiery furnace hike.

Muir Woods National Monument in California also provides Prior reservation parking.

While Yosemite canceled reservations for access to the entire park this summer, the park kept three weekends in February to help manage ponytail fall incidentduring which time the waterfall flowing from the El Capitan rock formation is orange under ideal sunset conditions.

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Language suggestions on the Yosemite website Wider park bookings may resume in the coming years.

“For decades, Yosemite has struggled with traffic congestion — even traffic jams,” it said website“We hope to take the lessons learned from managing visits over the past three summers.”

Also, many parks require separate reservations to access certain campgrounds, or a wilderness permit for overnight backpackers.

“If you plan to spend the night in or near the park, you should book lodging, camping or backpacking,” Olympic National Park said website“During the summer months, especially on weekends, campgrounds and motels can fill up quickly.”

How to Book a National Park

Visitors can make online reservations through the following URL Or through the Call Center at (877) 444-6777. Reservations are subject to a non-refundable processing fee, generally between $2 and $6.

In addition to the processing fee, visitors must pay the park’s standard admission fee or present the National Park Service Annual Multi-Park Pass.

Reservations and permits are usually available online months in advance. For those unable to make a reservation, the park will often release additional tickets closer to the date of visit, sometimes even a day earlier. In both cases, they tend to sell out quickly.

There are many different details between the parks. For example, some vehicle reservations may be valid for multiple days of park use, while other vehicle reservations may only be valid for one day. Some parks require visitors to reserve a certain time of entry, asking motorists to arrive within a set time frame.

Some Alternatives to Reservation and Licensing

However, for those who can’t get a reservation, there are a few ways around the reservation issue.

For example, vehicle reservations are often only valid during peak hours of the day and certain times of the year. This means motorists can enter the park without a reservation outside of peak hours and months.

For example, Glacier’s Two Medicine vehicle reservations are valid from July 1 to September 10, 2023, between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time.According to Glacier, visitors visiting outside of these dates and times generally do not require reservations website.

Likewise, visitors can often bypass permit requirements if they have booked accommodation, camping, amenities such as transportation, or business activities such as tourism that are located in restricted park areas.

“A lot of times it’s much harder to get an individual permit than to get a hiking guide licensed throughout the summer,” said Mike Augustine, a travel consultant and U.S. national park expert with Mountain Travel Sobek.

If you plan to visit a national park, check the park’s website for the latest information on reservations, road closures and other important information, Cropper said.

“Planning ahead for national parks will make your trip really smooth,” says Cropper.