Want to know which national parks require reservations and exactly how to get them? See which popular US national parks are now harder to get in.
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Last Updated: March 30, 2023
Before we get into it, we want to remind everyone to explore the parks responsibly using the 7 Leave no Trace Principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.
Why Do National Parks Require Reservations?
Ever since the pandemic, more people are seeking to spend time outdoors, which has caused a huge strain on the National Parks. After years of record-breaking visitor numbers, parks have started using reservation systems to handle crowds and traffic, and it looks like they’re here to stay.
All 63 National Parks are open in 2023, but these 9 require some type of reservation on top of entrance fees. Keep reading to see how you can get reservations at each of them.
Pro Tip: This annual pass will save you money if you like exploring national parks.
Which National Parks Require Reservations?
25 Visitor Center Rd, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, map
Acadia National Park has beautiful lakes, dramatic shorelines, and beautiful forests. It’s especially stunning during fall with its fall foliage. Plus, they have rock climbing the cliffs along the coast, which is a unique experience.
From June 23 to Oct 22, 2023, you need a reservation to drive the Cadillac Summit Road, Acadia’s most popular drive-up spot to arguably have the best view in the park. See the photo of Jacob from the viewpoint.
this one) for the photo below.We used a long lens (
How to Get Acadia National Park Reservations
Reserve your $6 timed entry slot here. 30% of passes open up 90 days in advance, and the rest open up 2 days before the date you want to visit.
From Apr 1 to Oct 31, 2023, you need a timed park entry ticket between 6 am and 5 pm.
How to Get Arches National Park Reservations
Reservations for Timed Entry Tickets are available on the first of the month for 3 months later (ie. get your July tickets on April 1). They will also release a small number of tickets through a lottery system the day before entry.
Logan’s Pass Visitor Center, Browning, MT 59417, map
At Glacier National Park, you’ll see glacier-carved peaks and forest-filled valleys. We can see why they used to call it the Switzerland of America because we had the same thought! Going-To-The-Sun Road is one of the top scenic drives in the US and the most iconic part of the park (only open during the summer). Our favorite memories here, however, were sunrise at Two Medicine Lake and hiking to Cracker Lake.
This year brings changes with vehicle reservations required for four areas of the park:
- Going-to-the-Sun Road: Required between May 26 to September 10, 2023 from 6 am to 3 pm.
- North Fork: Required between May 26 to September 10, 2023 from 6 am to 3 pm.
- Two Medicine: Required between May 26 to September 10, 2023 from 6 am to 3 pm.
- Many Glacier: Required between May 26 to September 10, 2023 from 6 am to 3 pm.
How to Get Glacier National Park Reservations
Going-to-the-Sun Road: Vehicle Reservations are valid for three consecutive days and have a $2 processing fee. They are released 120 days before the effective day (for July 1, reservations will be available on March 3). Any remaining spots will be released at 8 am MDT the day before the effective date.
North Fork: Vehicle Reservations are valid for one day and have a $2 processing fee. A portion will be available 120 days in advance at 8 am MT. The remaining will be released on a rolling basis at 8 am, 24 hours in advance.
Two Medicine + Many Glaciers: Vehicle Reservations are valid for one day and have a $2 processing fee. A portion will be available 120 days in advance at 8 am MT. The remaining will be released on a rolling basis at 8 am, 24 hours in advance.
4. Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
Haleakalā National Park has the highest peak in Maui, and with its stunning desert-like landscape, it is an extremely popular place to trek for a sunrise view. Visiting the park any other time of day doesn’t require a reservation, but if you want to enter the park between 3 am and 7 am to catch the sunrise, you’ll need to get a reservation online.
How to Get Haleakala Sunrise Reservations
Make sunrise reservations here. There is a reservation fee of $1 per vehicle. You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance, and they are released at 7 am HST. They also release a portion of reservations 2 days in advance.
5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517, map
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best parks for those of you who love to hike. There are more than 300 miles of hiking trails where you can spot wildlife, wildflowers, and glacial basins.
Between May 26 to October 22, 2023, entry permits are required to visit the park between 9 am and 2 pm outside of the Bear Lake Road Corridor and between 5 am and 6 pm to visit anything along Bear Lake Road.
How to Get Rock Mountain Reservations
Book your Timed Entry Permit Reservations here. For entrance to the park from May 26 to June 30, reservations will go live at 10 am MDT on May 1. For all the following months, they will become available on the 1st day of the previous month at 10 am MDT (For July, reservations will open June 1 at 10 am MDT).
6. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
3655 US-211, Luray, VA 22835, map
Shenandoah is a popular national park, especially among day-trippers from Washington DC. Besides the hiking trails and waterfalls, don’t miss the 105-mile Skyline Drive.
Between May 1 and Nov 30, 2022, reservations are required for Shenandoah’s Old Rag Mountain, a popular hike in the park, that includes the Saddles, Ride, and Ridge Access trails. The program is currently under review to decide if they will continue it in 2023.
How to Get Shenandoah National Park Reservations
Make reservations for Old Rag Mountain here. You can purchase the day-use reservations up to 30 days in advance. It costs $1 and a total of 800 tickets will be available each day. They release 400 tickets 30 days in advance and 400 five days in advance.
9035 Village Dr, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, map
Yosemite National Park will always hold a special place in our hearts because it was the first park we visited as adults. It’s one of the places we can’t tire of from the tallest waterfall in North America (where you can see a moonbow) to awe-inspiring granite monoliths to one of the hardest day hikes we’ve ever done. But we admit it has gotten more annoying to visit in recent years with the crowds and traffic in the Valley.
In February during firefall, they require Entrance Reservations on the weekends: February 10-12, February 17-19, and February 24-26, 2023. Otherwise, they have listed all reservations during the summer.
How to Get Yosemite National Park Reservations
Entrance Reservations can be made here. There is a $2 per ticket nonrefundable fee.
1 Zion Park Blvd, Springdale, UT 84767, map
Zion National Park has gotten extremely popular in recent years and for good reason. It has incredible hikes that test your fear of heights or hikes that allow you to walk through rivers with towering canyon walls. We were fortunate enough to hike Angels Landing Trail years ago without any crowds but starting April 1, you must enter a permit lottery to hike the busy trail. We’ve heard from friends that the hike can feel like waiting for a Disneyland ride, so you might want to visit lesser-known parts of the park if you’re trying to connect with nature.
They tested Entrance Reservations but currently do not require one to enter the park. You do still need a permit to hike Angels Landing between March 1 to May 31, 2023.
How to Get Zion National Park Reservations
Angels Landing Trail permits can be obtained by entering the permit lottery up to three months in advance or as late as one day before the trip. You will have to select your time window, pre-9 am, 9 am to 12 pm, or after 12 pm, to start the hike. Permits cost $3 per person plus a non-refundable $6 application fee. You can apply for a group size of up to 6 people.
9. Muir Woods National Monument, California
1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941, map
Muir Woods National Monument was the first national park unit to use a permanent reservation system in 2018 to create a more enjoyable experience for visitors and protect the ecosystem. You need reservations year-round, and there are two types: a car reservation and a shuttle service reservation.
You also never know when they’ll designate this National Monument as a National Park, so it’s always good to get in early.
How to Get Muir Woods Reservations
Make your reservation for Muir Woods National Monument here. Reservations are available 90 days before visiting with additional slots released three days before the visit day. It costs $9 per car for the reservation or $3.50 per person for the shuttle reservation.
1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161, map
Although Red Rock Canyon is managed by BLM (not NPS), you can still enter with your America the Beautiful pass, which covers national park units and BLM land. If you’re in Vegas, don’t miss the amazing outdoor adventures just 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, including Red Rock. The park has a scenic loop with viewpoints for a leisure visit, or if you want a challenge, there are hiking trails and world-class climbing. We try to go at least once a week during the climbing season.
The Scenic Drive requires a reservation between Oct 1 and May 31 to give you access between 8 am and 5 pm.
How to Get Red Rock Reservations
Although it’s a good idea to make reservations online here, you can also make reservations at the ticket window, unlike most National Parks. Reservations are $2 (in addition to the entrance fee), and you will have to select a time slot (you will have a 30-minute window before or after your time slot before it expires).
Tips for Making National Park Reservations + Visiting the Parks
- Create a recreation.gov account ahead of time. They handle most reservations at National Parks.
- Have backup options. These 15 underrated National Parks are great options as well as these 400+ National Monuments, Preserves, and Historic Sites all managed by the National Park Service. You never know which of these will later be designated a National Park, so it’s good to get in early.
- These reservation fees do not include entrance fees. Pick up an Annual Pass to save money if you plan on visiting multiple National Parks in a year.
- As soon as you have dates in mind, set up a calendar or email reminder.
- If you are really set on a specific date, have everyone from your group try for a reservation to increase your chances.
- Explore the parks responsibly using Leave no Trace principles. Have a plan, stay on established trails, carry out anything you carry in, leave what you find, minimize campfire impact, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others.
- Want to know what to wear to the airport? Here’s my ideal airport outfit and our carry-on essentials for every flight.
Map of the National Parks in the USA
What to Pack
How you will pack depends on which park you visit and the activities you plan, but here is a general guide on items we always try to pack.
Frequently Asked Questions
DO US NATIONAL PARKS REQUIRE RESERVATIONS?
Most parks do not require reservations to enter, but some popular parks, hikes, and attractions require reservations or permits to limit the number of people who can enter.
DO YOU NEED RESERVATIONS TO ENTER YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK IN 2023?
No, reservations are currently not required to enter Yellowstone National Park.
DO YOU NEED A RESERVATION TO VISIT ZION NATIONAL PARK?
No, reservations are not required to enter Zion National Park, but you need a permit if you want to hike Angels Landing Trail. They also require the use of the shuttle system.
DO YOU NEED RESERVATIONS FOR BRYCE NATIONAL PARK?
No, reservations are currently not required to visit Bryce Canyon National Park.
CAN I DRIVE THROUGH YOSEMITE WITHOUT A RESERVATION?
In February during firefall, a reservation is required to enter Yosemite National Park on the weekends.
DO YOU NEED A RESERVATION FOR MOUNT RUSHMORE?
No, you do not need a reservation to visit Mount Rushmore.
ARE RESERVATIONS REQUIRED FOR GLACIER NATIONAL PARK?
Reservations are not required to visit portions of Glacier National Park. From May 26 to Sept 10, 2023, you will need a vehicle registration to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
DO YOU NEED A RESERVATION FOR ACADIA NATIONAL PARK?
You do not need a reservation to enter Acadia National Park, but you need a reservation to drive the Cadillac Summit Road from June 23 to October 22, 2023.
DO YOU NEED A RESERVATION FOR SMOKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK?
No, you do not need a reservation to visit Smoky Mountain National Park, but you will need to reserve a campsite if you plan on camping.
DO YOU NEED TO MAKE A RESERVATION FOR CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK?
No, reservations are not required to visit Canyonlands National Park.
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
Esther + Jacob
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.