As some national parks have recorded record visitation, several have introduced reservation and permitting systems in order to control crowds and offer visitors a better experience.
Reservations and permits for most of these experiences are made through the National Park Service’s website Recreation.gov.
Here are some of the popular visits and treks that require reservations. Some of these, book up quickly.
The visitation numbers at Arches increased 66 percent over 10 years bringing in an estimated 1,659,702 visitors in 2019. The increase in numbers visiting the park has resulted in entrance line wait times, parking lot congestion, and overcrowding on trails.
To better manage crowds, the park will pilot a new seasonal reservation system for all visits between April 3 through October 3, from 6 am and 5 pm. The reservation costs $2. Visitors will need to show this reservation and a photo ID to enter the park. Reservations are now open.
Angels Landing, Zion National Park
Angels Landing in Zion National Park draws in hikers from around the world for its reputation as a dangerous trail, not for the faint-hearted. The trail climbs 1,488 feet and the last section requires hikers to navigate a narrow section by holding on to chains.
Since that area often gets bottlenecked, the Utah park announced starting April 1, 2022, you’ll need a permit to access its iconic chained portion of the hike.
The first seasonal lottery opened on January 3, 2022, for permits from April 1 through May 31. You’re required to pay a nonrefundable $6 fee to enter the lottery which closes on January 20, 2022. If you are chosen for a permit on January 25, you’ll then pay an additional $3 fee per person listed on the permit. According to the National Park Service (NPS), the fee will help to defray the cost to administer the program as well as for the rangers who will check permits and assist visitors on the trail.
If you don’t obtain a permit through the initial lottery, you can try to enter a second lottery the day before you plan to hike. The lottery will open each day at 12:01 am. Mountain Time and close at 3 pm. Rangers will draw permits at 4 pm.
Granite Park and Sperry Chalet, Glacier National Park
Built-in the spirit of the architecture of Switzerland, there are two historic chalets in Glacier National Park that you can only reach by hiking through the backcountry.
They’re only open for a few months during the summer and book up quickly. In 2022, Granite Park Chalet will open June 28 through September 11. Sperry Chalet will open July 9 through September 11.
Reservations open on January 10, 2022, at 8 am. Mountain time.
Mt. Whitney, California
The tallest peak in the lower 48 states, Mt. Whitney has grown in popularity partially due to the fact that the summit can be reached on a day hike. This is a challenging hike and the altitude can make it difficult for even the most experienced hikers.
A permit is required to hike Mt. Whitney from May 1 through November 1.
There are two separate permits available. One requires you to summit as a day hike (midnight to midnight). There are 100 people allowed this permit per day.
The other permit allows you to do it over multiple days as an overnight hike. There are 60 people allowed entry under this permit each day.
The lottery is open from February 1 through March 15, 2022. The results are announced on March 24. If you don’t get a permit, you can circle back on May 1 at 7 a.m. when they make any unclaimed permits from the lottery available.
Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park
An epic 50-mile winding road through the heart of Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Highway will require a reservation to enter in 2022. The park has yet to announce an exact date that tickets will be made available but they have indicated that it will be sometime in March.
Tickets are required from May 27 through September 11, 2022, and are valid for three days after the reserved date. The fee to reserve the ticket is $2. In addition, you’ll have to pay the $35 park entry fee or show your America is Beautiful park pass on the day you enter the park.
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park: March 1-31, 2022
During the summer months, typically late May to mid-October, Yosemite National Park rangers put up chains so fearless hikers can summit Half Dome. Rangers permit 300 hikers daily (225 for a day hike, 75 as backpackers).
These permits are in high demand with the preseason lottery opening from March 1-31.
Those who enter can apply for up to six permits and those who enter the lottery receive an email with the results by mid-April.
If you don’t obtain a permit through the initial lottery, you can try to enter a second lottery that opens two days prior to the hiking date and rangers provide notification to those who are selected late that same evening.
There are two other locations with ongoing reservations year-round.
The Wave, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
There are 64 permits available daily to hike the 6-mile roundtrip hike to the Wave. Of those, 48 are available four months in advance and 16 are available the day before you plan to hike.
Phantom Ranch, Grand Canyon National Park
With sometimes more than 300 applications, it can truly be like winning the lottery to snag one of these spots. Still, if you’d like to try your luck, the lottery opens four months in advance.
Built-in the 1920s, Phantom Ranch is the place to stay if you want to make the long hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and relax a bit before making the trek back out. Phantom Ranch opens its lottery for spots in its cabins and dorms on the 15th of the month, 14 months in advance. So, if you logged in on January 15, 2022, you’d find the lottery available for March 2023 reservations.
You can access the lottery through the Phantom Ranch website. It’s been even more difficult to land a reservation in recent months as only the cabins have been available due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Hiking a ridge, a meadow, or a river bottom, is as healthy a form of exercise as one can get. Hiking seems to put all the body cells back into rhythm.
—William O. Douglas, Justice, United States Supreme Court