Unlocking the World

Want to see Yosemite in peak season? Reservations open Wednesday

Forrest Brown, CNNPublished 22nd March 2022
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 11: Visitors admire Yosemite Falls on June 11, 2020 in Yosemite National Park, California. . Yosemite National Park reopened today with many restrictions after shutting down in March to protect people from COVID-19. Only about half of the average June visitors will be allowed in, and they must make an online reservation for each car. The park will issue 1,700 day passes each day and an additional 1,900 passes for reservations at campsites or hotels in the park. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(CNN) — Yosemite National Park in California gets millions of visitors each year -- more than 3.3 million in 2021. And like other big-name US national parks, it's trying to come up with ways to manage the crowds.
Starting 8 a.m. PT (11 a.m. ET) Wednesday, Yosemite's reservation system will be live for visitors to secure their entry in peak season.
From May 20 to September 30, all park visitors will need a reservation to enter between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is for weekdays as well as weekends.
This includes everyone who wants to visit, even annual and lifetime pass holders. You can make a reservation at www.recreation.gov.

Be ready to move fast

Yosemite advises people to have their Recreation.gov accounts already established and "be logged in and ready to get a reservation promptly at 8 a.m. Pacific daylight time."
A nonrefundable reservation fee is $2 is charged, and it does not include the $35-a-car park entrance fee.
People who already have reservations for in-park camping, lodging or wilderness permits don't need to make an additional entry reservation.
You can find out more details here. The park also has an online list of frequently asked questions.

Early planning is the national park key

This is the same story at many of the other marquee national parks. If you want to visit a popular park this summer, it's already time to plan.
Extra fees, special passes, lotteries and caps on the number of visitors are all in play in 2022 to keep what's special about some crowd-pleasing parks from being deluged by a flood of humanity.
Parks that used to be free are now adding entry fees. Indiana Dunes National Park is one that will institute an entry fee for the first time this year, beginning March 31.
In Utah, Arches National Park is introducing a timed entry program for visits from April 3 to October 3.

One strategy: See the least-visited parks

A brown bear rests along a river in Katmai National Park, Alaska. This is one park where you are unlikely to be competing with tourists for a spot.
A brown bear rests along a river in Katmai National Park, Alaska. This is one park where you are unlikely to be competing with tourists for a spot.
Paul Souders/Adobe Stock
If you get shut of the marquee names such as Yellowstone, Yosemite and Glacier, consider one of their lesser-visited cousins. Some ideas:
Congaree National Park (South Carolina): This is the "largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the [Southeast]." You won't find another national park quite like it.
Great Basin National Park (Nevada): This features the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak, sage-covered foothills and the darkest of night skies.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas): About 110 miles east of El Paso, it features the four tallest peaks in Texas; canyons; desert landscapes; and dunes.
Katmai National Park and Preserve (Alaska): Stunning views and brown bear sightings are just two of the highlights of this park southwest of Anchorage.
For more ideas, see this list of the least-visited national parks in 2021.