There’s no question that national park vacations may be one of the hottest travel trends again this summer. Around the country, parklands have welcomed back eager travelers seeking wide-open spaces and a change of scenery.
But before you book that hotel or vacation rental near a national park this summer, be sure to check advance day-use ticketed reservation requirements — remember those from last year? — to be sure you can visit your preferred park on the days you want.
In an official news release, Yosemite National Park announced that beginning May 21, 2021, advanced reservations will be required for day-use access at the park through Sept. 30, 2021, covering the peak summer visitation months, in order to “allow the park to manage visitation levels to reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19.”
All day-use visitors, including those with annual and lifetime passes, are required to make advanced reservations (valid for three days) for Yosemite National Park during this period, according to the release.
If you have an overnight reservation at the park in one of its campgrounds or official lodgings, day-use reservations are included so there’s no need to reserve.
Day-use reservations for Yosemite National Park during the peak summer period can be made at recreation.gov beginning at 8 a.m. on April 21, 2021.
Amidst the continuing complications of the pandemic, Yosemite National Park is unlikely to be the only national park adjusting visitation numbers and requiring advanced reservations this summer, either, although news there is still rolling out.
In time for the busy summer travel period, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and Montana’s Glacier National Park in Montana will also institute their own versions of the restrictive reservation systems we’ve grown accustomed to by now to control an influx of visitors.
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Last summer, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park introduced a temporary timed entry system in early June.
The park is kicking off a similar timed entry system even earlier this year, with timed entry permit reservations required for people visiting between May 28 and Oct. 11, 2021.
If you plan to visit Rocky Mountain National Park between May 28 and June 30, 2021, you’ll be able to enter the reservations system on recreation.gov to book your pass starting at 8 a.m. on May 1, 2021.
Things get a bit complicated from there, so pay attention.
On the first day of each of the following months after May through September 1, 2021, additional reservation dates for park visits in July and beyond will open to bookings on recreation.gov. But it’s best to read more on that here to understand when your particular desired dates will be available to be searched online.
Last year, the system at Rocky Mountain National Park was designed to keep visitation at roughly 60 percent of the park’s capacity. The plan for this year is to welcome 75 to 85 percent of park capacity.
Further complicating things from a reservations perspective, there will be two types of park passes available at Rocky Mountain National Park during the temporary timed entry pilot program — one permit for the Bear Lake Road corridor and another for the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park (and excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor).
As we said, it’s complicated. And clearly, booking a last-minute trip to Rocky Mountain National Park could be tricky this summer, so do your research, stay flexible and get ready to pounce when your preferred date is ready to be booked and shows up as available.
Related: TPG’s safe travel guide — How to minimize risk on your summer vacation
If you’re planning to visit Glacier National Park along the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road this summer, be aware that temporary ticketed entry will be required for visitors traveling that route starting on Memorial Day Weekend 2021 in an effort to mitigate anticipated crowds at the tenth most visited national park in the country.
Going-to-the-Sun Road entry tickets will be available for sale on recreation.gov beginning at 6 a.m. on April 29, 2021, with tickets valid for entry through either the West Entrance or St. Mary Entrance of the park for a seven-day period. The entry tickets cost $2, which is in addition to park entrance fees.
If you have campground, lodging and backcountry reservations in the park, you don’t need to purchase the Going-to-the-Sun Road entry ticket (be prepared to show proof of your reservation).
In Maine, visitors are being encouraged to buy park entrance passes to Acadia National Park online in advance this summer, as was the case last summer. Though travelers don’t need to register for timed entry slots as of yet, the limited number of in-person services makes buying a pass in advance as important this year as it was last year.
Related: Why you’ll need to reserve all your fun this summer
Travelers planning national park trips this summer should be mindful that this information is subject to change with little notice. Parks without timed reservation systems or required ticketed entries could implement them with little warning. And as the coronavirus continues to menace the country, the National Park Service may even reevaluate what remains open to the public.
Featured photo of Rocky Mountain National Park by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images.
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