Yosemite National Park Reservation System Ends Sept. 30: What to Know

by Amy Myers

Starting October 1, Yosemite National Park will be lifting its temporary vehicle reservation system that lasts from May 20 to September 30. For visitors, this means they’ll be able to access the park whenever they choose without worrying about having the proper paperwork.

The Big Picture

  • Motorists have to reserve a spot in Yosemite National Park between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. from May 20 to September 30
  • National park lifts its vehicle reservation system outside of peak season
  • Reservations during busy season sell out “almost immediately”

Beginning in May, Yosemite tourists had to hop online and cross their fingers in hopes that they could get a vehicle reservation for the dates they planned on visiting the park. As one of the most popular national parks in the country, it’s no surprise that these reservations sold out almost as soon as they became available at 8 a.m. each day.

Now that schools are back in session and the majority of vacationers are back at their desks, the national park has concluded the reservation requirement, meaning that folks can drive right to the entrance gates on a whim. That said, they’ll still need to pay the entrance fee.

The only question now is whether Yosemite National Park will continue the temporary system next peak season.

Why Yosemite National Park Decided to Implement Vehicle Reservation System

Early this year, in February, Yosemite National Park announced that it would be implementing the “Peak Hours” reservation system. According to the park’s release, the new temporary system was a result of the influx of visitors that it saw in 2020 and 2021. With the pandemic pushing more folks outdoors, the natural response was to hit the trails and spend more time in our national parks.

Unfortunately, though, this also resulted in “chronic congestion” throughout the trails, attractions, parking lots and entrances. So, to keep the park’s numbers under control, Yosemite created a reservation system that would allow only a limited number of vehicles into the park for a fee of $35.

“A visit to Yosemite should be about enjoying the beautiful granite-lined landscape, not sitting in gridlock,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon in the initial release. “Yosemite visitors deserve a high-quality experience in this magnificent place. Our goal with the peak hours system is to ease overcrowding during the busiest times this summer while still offering access for all.”   

While the reservation and fees may have been an extra obstacle for visitors, they could at least find comfort in the fact that the funds went to park improvements, such as repairing roads, trails, campgrounds, visitor facilities and utility systems.

“Yosemite’s visitation affects our gateway communities in so many ways,” Muldoon continued. “We are grateful for the helping hand our community partners have extended to make this system work better for all.”