Capacity at certain national parks reaches its limit during the peak season, which led to the introduction of mandatory day-use reservations in 2021. In 2023, this obligation applies to 8 national parks listed in the article, including passholders of America the Beautiful. The aim is to control the number of individuals within the park.
Which USA National Parks Require Mandatory Reservations for Entry?
What Is the Reason Behind the Compulsory Reservation Policy for Entering National Parks?
During the peak season, some national parks are extremely overcrowded. Visitor numbers are increasing year on year and too many people detract from the beauty of American nature. Therefore, a system where a specific number of reservations are made available each day is in place to control the number of tourists in the park.
What Is the Cost to Book Entry to the Park?
Some places charge per car, including all occupants, while others charge per person. Similarly, the validity period and release date of reservations vary from park to park.
Do I Need to Make a Reservation if I Have an America the Beautiful Pass?
Reservations operate independently of the standard admission fee. They must be accompanied by either an America the Beautiful passport or proof of payment to enter the national park.
Where Can You Reserve Your Entrance to a USA National Park?
You must create a user account on the site to successfully make a reservation. Just click on Sign Up at the top right. Some parks have a demand that far exceeds the number of available reservations. I recommend signing up in advance and reserving your spot as soon as it becomes available. An email from @recreation.gov, which usually arrives promptly, serves as proof and should be presented along with a passport in the same name.
Acadia National Park Entrance Preserve
Reservations are mandatory for entry on Cadillac Summit Road from May 24 to October 22, 2023.
Reservations are not required for other areas of Acadia National Park. Likewise, you do not need to register if entering the park on foot, by bicycle, or by taxi.
The reservation fee is $6.00 per vehicle. Registrations are only available on the Recreation.gov website; they cannot be purchased at the park.
Tickets can be purchased starting from February 24, 2023. Thirty percent of registrations are released for sale 90 days in advance, and the remaining 70% are released for sale two days in advance at 10:00 a.m. ET.
Upon entry to the park, a confirmation QR code will be checked. It is recommended to download it to your phone as signal coverage may be unreliable in the park.
Arches National Park Entrance Preserve
At Arches National Park, an advance reservation for entry (Vehicle Timed Entry) is required from April 1 to October 31, 2023, between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm each day.
If you plan to be in the park outside of these hours, you do not need a reservation. Likewise, if you have reserved an overnight stay at the campground or a permit for Fiery Furnace, you do not need to pay for a reservation. However, if you plan to be in the park for multiple days, you must purchase admission for each day.
The reservation fee is $2.00 per vehicle, and it can be purchased exclusively at Recreation.gov.
You will need to present three things at the entrance gate of Arches National Park:
- Entry Reservation (Times Entry Ticket)
- Travel Pass
- Park Admission Ticket or America the Beautiful Pass
Reservations are released for sale a quarter of a year in advance on the first day of the month – for the entire calendar month. So on February 1, passes for all of May become available, and on March 1, all of June, etc. Additional tickets are always released one day in advance at 6:00 pm MT / 8:00 pm ET.
Glacier National Park Entrance Reservation
Reservations are required from May 26, 2023 to September 10, 2023 at the entrance to the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor (between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.), the North Fork area (between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), Two Medicine, and Many Glacier. Conditions at each location may vary slightly.
You do not need a reservation if you plan to pass through these sites outside of these times or if you have an overnight camping reservation at the site.
You must reserve for your vehicle when driving in all sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor, that is, between the West Entrance Station, Camas Entrance Station, and the Rising Sun checkpoint. Reservations are valid for three days.
The North Fork section requires a separate reservation, which is valid for one day. The affected sections can be seen on the map.
Sections of Many Glacier and Two Medicine also require a one-day reservation. Each section has its own separate reservation.
The cost of reservations for Glacier National Park is $2.00. You can purchase them at Recreation.gov. Reservations may not be necessary if you have booked accommodations at the locations.
A portion of the reserved capacity goes on sale 120 days in advance, with the remainder always becoming available the day before at 8:00 a.m. MDT. A screenshot of the site will suffice as proof of payment for the reservation and is presented at the gate.
Haleakala National Park Entrance Reservation
Reservations must be made in advance by all visitors entering the park between 3:00 am and 7:00 am for the sunrise. This is applicable throughout the year.
The reservation costs $1.00 per vehicle, payable at Recreation.gov.
Tickets become available 60 days in advance, with a limited number available two days prior. An email reservation and a photo ID with the name matching that on the ticket must be presented at the park entrance.
Rocky Mountain National Park Entrance Reservation
A Timed Entry Permit Reservation (TAPR) for Rocky Mountain National Park is required between May 26 and October 22, 2023. If you have a reservation for another service in the park (such as an overnight stay at a campground), you can avoid this fee.
Reservation rates are $2.00 per car per day. Two options are available at Recreation.gov:
- Option 1: Provides access to the Bear Lake Road Corridor. Reservations are required between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- Option 2: Does not provide entrance to Bear Lake Road. Reservations are required between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Reservations are made available on the first of each month at 8:00 a.m. MDT for the following month. For example, on June 1, entries are available for the entire month of July and any unused entries in June. A total of 40% of all available reservations are released one day prior at 5:00 pm; these tend to be snapped up quickly.
Shenandoah National Park Entrance Reservation
Reservations are only required for entry to the Old Rag Mountain trail between March 1 and November 30, 2023.
Each day, 800 tickets are released: 400 tickets are released 30 days in advance, and another 400 tickets are released five days prior.
Reservations cost $1.00 per person per day, and are exclusively available at Recreation.gov. When traveling in a group, each individual must have their own reservation, and a single person can make a maximum of four reservations.
Zion National Park Entrance Preserve
A special permit is only required for visitors wishing to hike the famous Angels Landing Trail. Reservations are not required to enter the park itself, ride the shuttle, or hike to The Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava.
The permit to Angels Landing is issued through a lottery system, providing two chances for visitors.
The Seasonal Lottery covers three calendar months at a time and opens two months in advance. For example, the lottery for hikes from September 1 to November 30, 2023, opens on July 1, 2023.
On the day the permits are issued, you will receive an email with the lottery results.
The cost to enter the non-refundable lottery is $6.00, with up to six people allowed to register. If you are successful in the lottery, each person is required to pay $3.00.
The Last-Minute Lottery is held the day before the hike begins at 0:01 MT and closes at 15:00 MT. At 16:00 MT, you will receive an email informing you of your success or lack thereof. The fee is the same as in the first case.
The confirmation email from Recreation.gov serves as your permit. Save it to your phone or print it out and bring it with you on the hike.