Some require reservations to visit

Summer is approaching, which means that many Americans are deciding how they want to spend the warm days. And for many, that means the great outdoors!

But for those planning a trip to one of the hundreds of US national parks, don’t expect to drive and start camping. For many national parks this year, you’ll need to plan ahead and make reservations.

Part of this is about preserving the parks. Attendance at national parks increases nearly every year, and that’s been the case since record-keeping began in 1904. Visitor levels peaked in 2017, when more than 330 million visits were recorded in the country’s park system. Those numbers plummet in the following years, but 2021 still sees more than 297 million visits — enough to put pressure on the underfunded system.

To combat staff overuse and overcrowding, Fodors reports that the national park system has implemented new ways to manage visitor tide and prevent nature from overrun.

“The reservation system aims to enhance the visitor experience, from parking availability, reduced wait times and, most importantly, the preservation of our natural environments and habitats,” Yosemite public affairs officer Scott Jediman told the travel website.

A rainbow in front of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California in 2019.Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Not all national parks require reservations or advance planning, although it’s a good idea to have all the information before you set out on the trail. Here’s what you need to know about the most famous gardens.

Acadia National Park (Maine)

Acadia National Park
Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park, Maine in 2016.Gregory Rick/Portland Press-Herald via Getty

Timed Entry costs $6 to drive on the Cadillac Summit Road in Acadia National Park from May 25 to October 22. Try to book 90 days in advance of your trip, when 30% of tickets will be issued at Entertainment.gov. The remaining 70% is released two days ago at 10 AM ET.

Arches National Park (Utah)

Visitors to Arches National Park who arrive between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. will be allowed in on a time-bound entry system from April 3 through October. 3. The best time to check tickets is on the first day of the month, three months before you arrive at Entertainment.gov.

The day before, a limited number of tickets were available at 6 PM MST. But the park’s website warns, “These products are expected to sell out quickly and we encourage visitors to plan ahead.”

Glacier National Park (Montana)

$2 ticket required from May 27 – September. 11 to drive on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Trail. You will not need a ticket before 6am or after 4pm. Tickets can be purchased on a rolling basis up to 120 days prior to your entry (this also applies to the North Fork portion of the park) at relaxion.gov.

Haleakala National Park (Hawaii)

Book tickets at Entertainment.gov if you want to watch the sunrise in Haleakala National Park between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Between May 27 – October. 10, Rocky Mountain National Park has two ticket options: for those who want to get to the Bear Lake picnic area between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.; The other without access for hiking between 9am and 3pm. The park will begin issuing permits on May 2 for dates between May 28 and June 30. Other months will have tickets issued on the 1st of the previous month, with a 25% to 30% percentage of tickets issued at 5pm the day before. Find tickets at relaxion.gov.

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.Jeff Norman / Getty Images / IM

The famous Old Rag Mountain hike in Shenandoah National Park requires a $1 ticket from March 1 to November. 30. Tickets can be purchased 30 days in advance at renion.gov.

Yosemite National Park (California)

Yosemite National Park
The Mist Trail toward Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park, California in 2020. Apu Gomes / AFP via Getty Images

Yosemite National Park is an antique in the ticketing business, thanks to the Half Dome hike that attracts many adventurers. New this year is that you need a reservation to access any part of the park during peak hours. Get a three-day pass from relaxion.gov, which allows you to enter for one consecutive day. More tickets will be released on May 13th.

Zion National Park (Utah)

Zion National Park
The gorge along the Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah in 2014. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Angel’s Landing tours in Zion National Park require a reservation, with tickets distributed as part of a lottery. The application cost is $6, and only a few reservations will be granted the day before the visit. The lottery starts on April 1, July 1 and October 1, and will run until February 2023. You can apply for a pass here.

This is by no means a complete list of parks that require ticketing or advance planning; Each park varies in terms of cost and number of tickets awarded. And of course, some places like Everglades National Park have tickets for things like camping or certain activities. Whatever you choose, planning on spontaneity is definitely the best way forward.

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