10 National Parks That Require Early Reservations for 2024 Visits

Planning a trip to a national park in 2024? Check to see which parks will require advanced reservations and timed entry as peak travel season arrives.

With the arrival of the New Year, many are making plans for the 2024 travel season. Whether taking one of the many bucket list-worthy national park road trips or planning an entire trip around a single park, America’s protected, nature-packed areas are some of the most popular travel destinations in the U.S.

As travelers are making plans to visit national parks, the park system readies itself to receive the influx of visitors. For some of the most beautiful (and popular) national parks, this means implementing early reservation and timed entry systems to control the flow of vehicles and people into each park.

As of early January 2024, the following national parks have announced early reservation systems for the upcoming peak season between April and October. Some parks will have timed entry for one or two of their most popular attractions while others are preparing to use a timed entry system for the entire park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start planning now; these are the national parks that require reservations in advance and will take some serious preparation!

1. Yosemite National Park, California

Reservations required for: Entire park (select days)

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. with some of the most iconic granite structures in the world. With such iconic hiking trails, scenic drives, and backcountry campsites, it’s no surprise Yosemite National Park requires timed entry reservations during parts of the peak season.

The most significant reservation requirement in Yosemite National Park is during February when the famous Yosemite Firefall is visible. Reservations are required to drive into or through Yosemite National Park every weekend in February to help control traffic.

In addition to the February reservations, timed entry is also required during most of the peak season (April to October). Reservations will be required on weekends in April, June, September, and October and daily during July and August. Controlled crowds are positive for guests in the park, leaving more room to enjoy not just the stunning Firefall but all the sights and stunning hiking trails in Yosemite National Park.

About Yosemite National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $35/vehicle, valid for 7 consecutive days
  • Reservation fee: None
  • When are reservations required: Weekends in February, April 13-October 27

2. Glacier National Park, Montana

Reservations required for: Going-to-the-Sun Highway, Many Glacier, and North Fork

Home to some of the most spectacular scenic drives Glacier National Park is certainly a must-visit destination. Between May 24 and September 8, admission to the most popular parts of this region will require an additional pass.

Vehicle reservations will be required to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway and to enter the Many Glacier and North Fork areas. Reservations will be required from 6 am until 3 pm each day during the peak season.

For those who have planned activities in these areas like camping, horseback riding, or boating the pass to the activity doubles as the vehicle reservation pass as well. Given that Going-to-the-Sun Road in particular is the access point to some of the best hikes in Glacier National Park, travelers are sure to be grateful for the limitations on crowds as they enjoy the one-of-a-kind views.

About Glacier National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $35/vehicle, valid for 7 consecutive days
  • Reservation fee: None
  • When are reservations required: May 24-September 8 (6 am-3 pm)
Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Zion National Park, Utah

Reservations required for: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows

Zion National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the country and is well-established as being one of the best national parks for scenic hiking. One of those hikes, however, will require some advanced planning.

Angel’s Landing, one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S. is not a trail that people can just jump onto spontaneously. Hopeful hikers must first enter the seasonal lottery to obtain a permit or they can try their luck with the day-before lottery system on the Zion National Park website. Those who do not receive a permit can still hike to Scout Lookout along the strenuous West Rim Trail which gains 1,000 feet in elevation over 2.3 miles and provides scenic views of Zion Canyon.

While Angel’s Landing is the most famous hike that requires a permit in Zion National Park, there is one other trek that will need a reservation as well. The 16-mile Through Virgin Rivers Narrows hike requires a reservation as well and visitors will need to note whether they plan to spend the night on the trail or not.

About Zion National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $35/vehicle
  • Reservation fee: $6/group (Angel’s Landing)
  • When are reservations required: Year-round

4. Acadia National Park, Maine

Reservations required for: Cadillac Summit Road

From the forests to the coastline to the mountains, Acadia National Park is truly one of the most beautiful places in America (a fact that was recently confirmed by Condé Nast Traveler). Cadillac Mountain is one of the main attractions of this scenic region and for good reason. As the highest point in the park, the views are practically endless.

During peak season, however, the drive to Cadillac Mountain’s summit aptly named the Cadillac Summit Road will require reservations. From May to October, visitors to Acadia National Park will need to purchase a separate reservation pass to gain access to Cadillac Summit Road. Since the park’s shuttle does not service the summit the views from the top are exclusively for those who have planned allowing everyone to get that perfect shot.

About Acadia National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $35/vehicle
  • Reservation fee: $6/vehicle
  • When are reservations required: May-October

5. Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii

Reservations required for: Sunrise Park entry

For most national parks that require reservations, the goal is to limit crowds during the crazy midday rush that often bombards these natural wonders. In Hawaii, however, the rush starts at 3 am with people clamoring for a perfect place to enjoy the sunrise.

One of the best places to watch the sunrise in Hawaii is Haleakalā National Park. The park has become so popular for sunrise watching that Haleakalā National Park has implemented a reservation system for sunrise viewing. Between 3 am and 7 am entry to the park requires the purchase of a reservation slot in addition to the normal park fees.

To ensure that everyone has their chance to enjoy the morning glow slots open 60 days in advance with a second set of slots opening just 48 hours before the time frame. Golden ticket in hand and backpack on, early risers will be in perfect shape to enjoy the morning glow rising over the tropical landscape.

About Haleakalā National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $30/vehicle
  • Reservation fee: $1/person
  • When are reservations required: Year-round
Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Arches National Park, Utah

Reservations required for: The entire park

Arches National Park is home to the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world and these delicate formations require a little extra protection to maintain. Starting on April 1, 2024, Arches National Park will require time entry for peak season.

As a relatively compact national park, Arches does not have the acreage of some of the other national parks for guests to spread out. As a result, a timed program is being introduced to manage the crowds that the park sees between April and October.

A small, non-refundable $2 fee will ensure one’s vehicle entry to the park. Alternatively, those who have reservations for camping or other park activities will be able to use their activity tickets as their timed entry passes. These precautions are great news to visitors who are hoping to enjoy the amazing rock formations in Arches National Park without overcrowding on the park’s roads and trails.

About Arches National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $30/vehicle
  • Reservation fee: $2/person
  • When are reservations required: April 1 – October 31
Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Reservation required for: The entire park

Located west of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park feels a world away from the busy city streets of downtown. Despite the remote feel, the park’s proximity to a major city means that crowds are to be expected especially during peak season.

To combat the waves of eager hikers, bikers, and campers, Rocky Mountain National Park has a two-part timed entry system in place between May and October. The first reservation is for Bear Lake Road Corridor which gives a two-hour entry window between 5 am and 6 pm to both Bear Lake Road Corridor and the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The other timed entry reservation is exclusively for the rest of the park or everywhere except Bear Lake Road Corridor. This reservation also gives a two-hour entry window and is only required between 9 am and 2 pm.

About Rocky Mountain National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $30/vehicle
  • Reservation fee: $2/person
  • When are reservations required: May 24-October 20

Note: Rocky Mountain National Park is undergoing several major construction projects. Even with timed entry reservations limiting guest numbers, visitors should be prepared for long lines in some areas of the park including at both main entrance points.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Reservations required for: Old Rag Mountain

A scenic day trip from Washington DC, the mountains and forests of Shenandoah National Park draw in thousands of visitors each year. There are so many things to do in Shenandoah National Park from hiking to scenic drives to fishing, so it’s no surprise that limitations are in place to control visitor numbers and prevent overcrowding.

During peak season, visitors to Shenandoah National Park will need a reservation to visit one of the most popular areas for hiking and backpacking, Old Rag Mountain. Visitors can obtain a day-use permit pass which grants access to the mountain and its scenic hiking trails including the Old Rag Summit hike.

Tickets are released in two batches, 30 days and 5 days ahead of the permit date. This means that advanced planners and last-minute travelers alike will have a chance to take in these incredible summit views.

About Shenandoah National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $30/vehicle
  • Reservation fee: $1/person
  • When are reservations required: March 1-November 30
Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Muir Woods National Monument, California

Reservations required for: The entire park

Muir Woods National Monument was one of the first parks to implement a reserved entrance fee requiring entrance reservations starting in 2018. Starting in 2024, Muir Woods National Monument’s reservation system is getting an update with a shuttle service to and from the park being offered instead of making a parking reservation.

With limited parking space and a delicate ecosystem within Muir Woods, a reservation system is a matter of necessity. As a result, parking and shuttle reservations are required year-round. This means more space in the park for guests to enjoy the scenic hiking trails, towering redwoods, and coastal views that make Muir Woods National Monument a hotspot for hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

About Muir Woods National Monument reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $15/person
  • Reservation fee: $9.50/vehicle or $3.75/person via shuttle
  • When are reservations required: Year-round

10. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Reservations required for: Grand Teton backcountry overnights

For many national parks, it is the busy scenic driving routes and hiking trails that require permits to limit overcrowding and damage to the delicate ecosystems. In Grand Teton National Park, however, it is a trip to the remote backcountry that will require advanced planning.

Reservations are required to overnight hike, backpack, or camp in Grand Teton National Park’s backcountry and permits are only available between January and May for the entire year. As a result, visitors hoping to explore the wilder parts of this Wyoming gem in 2024 will need to plan well in advance.

About Grand Teton National Park reservations:

  • Entrance fee: $15/person
  • Reservation fee: $20/permit flat rate and $7/person nightly fee
  • When are reservations required: Year-round

Backcountry permits for Grand Teton National Park peak season become available on January 10, 2024, at 8 am MST. Walk-up permits are also available at the backcountry office and can be obtained no more than 24 hours before the permit takes effect.

Worth Pondering…

A national park is not a playground; it’s a sanctuary for nature and for humans who will accept nature on nature’s own terms.

—Michael Frome

National Parks Requiring Reservations in 2023 + How to Snag One

Getting a national park reservation can be a pain. Here’s what you should know.

America’s protected lands may be for all—but in 2023, national park reservations are very much a thing. Timed entry passes have helped with overcrowding but the new system has created winners and losers

At 7:59 a.m. Mountain Time on the first day of March, people across the world hovered over keyboards and smartphones, ticking away the seconds until Glacier National Park released its block of coveted reservations for entering the park during July. The clock hit 8 a.m., setting off a mad race to click Book Now on the recreation.gov vehicle reservations page. The quickest fingers would score a pass to explore the Montana park’s pristine lakes, sheer peaks, and beargrass-dotted meadows in the high summer season.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Those spots went fast. The remote North Fork area in the park’s northwestern corner sold out within 10 minutes. Glacier’s stunning main thoroughfare, Going-to-the-Sun Road filled completely in half an hour. Some people got lucky that day but many more came away disappointed including Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke who tweeted about his failure to land a reservation.

While backcountry hikers and river runners have long dealt with the difficulty of nabbing permits for high-demand destinations, casual travelers haven’t had to wrestle for reservations simply to enter a national park—until recently.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Is ticketed entry a solution to overcrowding?

After years of struggling with record-breaking visitation and crowding, three parks rolled out pilots of so-called managed access systems to stem the tide. California’s Yosemite National Park instituted a day-use reservation system for 2020 through 2022 (No reservation system for 2023 while the park works on long-term planning); Glacier and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park introduced theirs in 2021 followed by Arches in 2022. A handful of other parks require reservations to visit specific locations like Cadillac Summit at Acadia and Angel’s Landing at Zion.

Each parks’ rules are different and for many confusing. Pass requirements vary by date and location within a park and are valid in some places for one day and in others for three days. Parks release a percentage of passes months in advance but reserve a portion for the day before (see info below). Successfully planning a summer trip is an experience Alex Kim, founder of Here Montana, likens to “cracking the code.”

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But few dispute that these parks had to do something. Starting with the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016 and skyrocketing with the COVID pandemic, park visitation numbers have increased to record numbers. “We’re seeing unprecedented levels of sustained demand in a lot of these parks,” says Will Rice, an assistant professor of parks, tourism, and recreation management at the University of Montana who studies reservation systems.

“The parks belong to the American people and there’s no substitute for being in a national park,” says Scott Gediman, public affairs officer for Yosemite. But “when you’ve got two-and-a-half hours waiting in line to get in, then you get there and shuttle buses are packed and there are long lines for food, it’s just not a good experience.” Add environmental damage caused by trampling feet and illegal parking and the problem compounds. Enter what Rice calls the rationing of recreation.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For those who do get a reservation, most say managed access leads to a much better trip. Park representatives are quick to note that they’re not trying to reduce visitation, just spread it out throughout the day and the season. All three parks succeeded in that: Since implementing their systems, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Yosemite have seen lines at entrance stations and shuttle buses dwindle, parking ceases to be a competitive sport, traffic gridlock ease, and people enjoying their experience more.

“We have done a survey of people who got reservations,” says John Hannon, Rocky Mountain’s management specialist. “They’re very supportive of timed entry once they’ve experienced it.” Yosemite visitors reported similar sentiments. “And anecdotally, a lot of people were seeing more wildlife,” notes Gediman.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The downside to ticketed entry

But limiting access, even if only during peak hours, necessarily leaves some people out. Under these systems, a certain type of visitor is more likely to snag the golden ticket. At the very least, it’s someone who plans well in advance. But also it’s someone with high-speed internet and a credit card, a job that allows for vacation planning months ahead, and familiarity both with recreation.gov’s reservation platform and the English language (recreation.gov is only available in English, though it does provide a how-to on using Google Translate).

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Making parks accessible to all

Part of the solution might lie in creating more ways to nab a reservation. “We need to expand the idea of how we ration these things,” says the University of Montana’s Rice. “People have different preferences and needs when it comes to how they want to gain access to these highly demanded recreational resources.”

Park officials say they’re well aware of these issues and continually tweak their systems to help all potential visitors get a fair shake. For this year, Rocky Mountain upped the number of reservations that go live 24 hours ahead of time—rather than months ahead—to better accommodate spur-of-the-moment travelers. And all three parks required reservations only during the busiest hours so anyone can come in without an advance booking before, say, 9 am or after 3 pm.

There are more strategy ideas on the table, too. Hannon says Rocky Mountain is considering setting aside some tickets for local retailers to sell in person reducing the system’s reliance on recreation.gov; hotel operators near Yosemite have requested a similar setup for their guests.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rice suggests the parks also look into implementing a lottery or even using license plates to determine who can enter on a given day as Yellowstone did in 2022 after flooding shut down portions of the park.

Visitors can be grateful that at least one other crowd-control tactic won’t be considered: raising entry fees. Unlike amusement parks and ski resorts that use demand-based systems to jack up prices during particularly popular times, national parks belong to everybody.

Like it or not, the days of spontaneously driving up to one of these national parks on a summer Saturday morning are probably over.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

WHAT TO KNOW

Yosemite National Park is not implementing a reservation system for summer 2023. But here’s how to book at three of the most popular national parks that will require reservations this year.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glacier National Park

Vehicle reservations are required between 6 am and 3 pm from May 26 to September 10 on North Fork Road and Going-to-the-Sun Road from the west side of the park and between July 1 and September 10 for all other park roads and Going-to-the-Sun Road from the east side. Going-to-the-Sun Road passes are valid for three days; the others last one day.

Cost: $2 processing fee (does not include park entry fee)

Release dates: The park releases a block of August reservations on April 1 and September reservations on May 1, both at 8 am Mountain Time. Additional reservations go on sale at 8 a.m. the day before your intended visit. Reserve at recreation.gov.

Tip: Visitors with reservations at a park campground, hotel, or outfitter, or with backcountry camping permits, do not need an entry permit.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Reservations are required from May 26 to October 22. There are two types: Bear Lake Corridor entry permits are required between 5 am and 6 pm while “rest of the park” entry permits are required from 9 am to 2 pm. All are issued to enter the park during a specific two-hour window. Reservations are valid for one day.

Cost: $2 processing fee (does not include park entry fee)

Release dates: The park releases a block of August reservations on July 1, September reservations on August 1, and October reservations on September 1, all at 8 am Mountain Time. Additional reservations go on sale at 5 pm the day before your intended visit. Reserve at recreation.gov.

Tip: Visitors with reservations at a park campground, hotel, or outfitter, or with backcountry camping permits, do not need an entry permit.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park

Beginning April 1 and continuing through October 31, Arches National Park will require visitors that want to enter the park during peak hours (7 am to 4 pm) to have a timed-entry pass. This pass is in addition to the park entrance fee everyone pays when they drive through the entrance of the park. Without your timed-entry pass, you will not be able to get into the park.

Release dates: The park releases a block of August reservations on May 1 and September reservations on June 1, both at 8 am Mountain Time. A small number of reservations will be available at 6 pm on the day before your intended visit. There’s no guarantee you’ll get one of these limited passes, so be sure to have plan B ready to go into effect if you don’t get a pass.

Tip: Reservations aren’t required if you have a camping reservation, are on a commercial tour, have a special use permit or are a Fiery Furnace ticket holder.

Worth Pondering…

The national parks in the U.S. are destinations unto themselves with recreation, activities, history, and culture.

—Jimmy Im