How does the new Yosemite reservation system work?

A reservation system is now in place for anyone wishing to travel to Yosemite National Park at peak times during the park’s peak season.

Between May 20 and September 30, peak-hour reservations are required between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily as part of efforts to ensure the park does not become overcrowded.

“What we’re trying to do is basically preserve the quality of the visit,” said Scott Gediman of Yosemite National Park.

Only one day use reservation is required per vehicle and must be purchased in advance (they are not available at the park entrance). The National Park Service states that each reservation is valid for three consecutive days from the day of arrival originally booked.

Gediman says the goal is not to limit visitors, but rather to spread them out.

“What was happening before was we had so many people. We arrive at 10 or 11 and you have a two hour wait at the entrance station – the parking lots are full, the trails are full.”

A reservation is not required to enter Yosemite National Park if you have reserved space at a campground, arranged a vacation rental, or paid to participate in a class inside the park (such as a guided backpacking trip) – although a visitor they will be asked to justify it when they arrive at the park entrance.

A reservation is also not necessary if entering the park with the YARTS bus service.

“Think of it this way: If you already have a reservation, whether it’s on a YARTS bus or a hotel or campground, then it’s fine. Just day users,” Gediman said.

Those planning to arrive before 6 a.m. or after 4 p.m. are asked not to block the roads in front of the park entrance gate but to change their route in order to arrive at the scheduled time.

“It’s not to limit visits, it’s to smooth them out,” Gediman said. “Which will hopefully eliminate or reduce queues at gates, full parking lots, full shuttles, crowds on trails – which ultimately is better resource avoidance and a better experience for the visitor.”

Reservations can be purchased for $2 on Recreation.gov. Park officials say 70% of reservations went on sale in March, but the remaining 30% are on a rolling release schedule, seven days before the reservation date itself, for those who want to be a bit more spontaneous.

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