The continually increasing popularity of national parks in the United States has prompted a pilot system for timed entry permits at several parks. This system appears to be working. That’s based on the National Parks Service continuing with it in 2024. And it may become standard at other parks
Managing visitor numbers and protecting our beautiful parks is not an easy thing to accomplish. The National Parks Service is inundated with visitors, struggling with funding for staffing and facing a massive maintenance backlog of over $22 billion.
“Timed entry permits” is a fancy way of saying reservations. They guarantee park entry during a specific time window, which changes from park to park. The Parks Service generally releases times months in advance. People also gobble them up quickly since the systems are in use at some of the nation’s most-popular locations.
As of January 2024, a handful of national parks require timed entry permits during peak season. That’s typically from spring to fall. These include:
- Acadia National Park: Requires reservations for Cadillac Summit Road during peak season.
- Arches National Park: Requires timed entry permits from April 1 to October 31 for all vehicles entering the park between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Glacier National Park: From May 24 through September 8, vehicle reservations are required for the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. From July 1 through September 8, vehicle reservations are required for Many Glacier from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: Implementing a pilot timed entry permit system beginning on May 24. Permits will be required for the Bear Lake Road Corridor and specific areas within the park.
- Yosemite National Park: Requires reservations for Glacier Point during peak season.
Planning your trip with timed entry permits
If you’re planning to visit a national park that requires timed entry permits, be sure to do your research. And book your permits well in advance, especially during peak season.
Sometimes, you can have a great trip to one of these national parks without getting a reservation. We did that when we visited Arches National Park in 2023. We were able to be flexible with our time, which really helped.
The key to this system, now and moving forward, is going to be flexibility and patience. Once you get into the park, head off on a long hike to reach locations that aren’t near parking lots. We have found the farther we hike, the fewer people we see!