US National Parks Are Making One Major Visitation Change

by Sean Griffin
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

US National Parks have had an interesting past few years, forcing many parks to institute a rule change. In recent years, 44 of the most well-known parks received record-breaking visitor counts. Six of these parks had just seen their highest-ever count the previous year, according to NPS.

Additionally, out of 423 parks, just 25 sites received more than half of the 297.1 million recreation visits made to the system last year.

So, many of the most popular parks have seen an increase in visits and visitor concentrations. Parks were forced to institute some changes to preserve their natural elements.

“As a result, parks are exploring many different tools and techniques that are most effective for their situation to help them improve how visitors get to and experience popular park resources and features,” Kathy Kupper, an NPS spokesperson, told Conde Nast Traveler earlier this year.

Therefore, several of the most popular national parks instituted reservation systems for visitors last year. This helped to thin out crowds somewhat. Guests had to book in advance if they wanted to enter certain sites. Others needed reserve a time to visit specific driving routes or hiking trails before showing up.

But the latest rules doesn’t affect all park visitors, and the requirements are seeming to loosen. As the high season for many sites winds down, some national parks have gotten rid of their entry reservation requirements.

Many US National Parks Getting Rid of Reservation Requirements

On Oct. 12, Rocky Mountain National Park became the latest to lift the seasonal crowd control system. They’d had it had in place since May 27. Previously, guests were required to book a time to enter between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. each day within a two-hour window.

Other major parks have also recently dropped reservation requirements for visitors. In recent weeks, Glacier National Park, Arches National Park, and Yosemite National Park all reached the end of their seasonal entry reservation runs according to USA Today.

Fortunately, many sites reported that the new system worked. It helped reduce the overcrowding that was hampering the preservation of many parks.

“We definitely feel we can maximize access and get more vehicles in the park using the timed entry system than we can without,” Kaitlyn Thomas, a spokesperson at Arches and Canyonlands national parks, said to “We saw a lot of reduction in congestion and wait times and crowding at trailheads.”

However, while entry reservation season might be over for some sites, some popular parks are still booking times. At the moment, Acadia National Park in Maine still requires prior reservations for drivers looking to access Cadillac Summit Road.

The site will run its seasonal reservation system until Oct. 22. According to NPS, 70 percent of all available daily tickets are released at 10 a.m., two days ahead of the entry time, and they cost $6.