Skip to main content

It’s finally easy to get into Yosemite National Park (No reservations required)

Controversial reservation system for Yosemite is shuttered

Finally, Yosemite National Park is open to everyone once again. Recently, park officials announced that the controversial crowd-control system requiring visitors to book a reservation to enter the park in the summer would no longer be used in the new year. The system was originally implemented during the first two years of the pandemic to prevent overcrowding and continued into this year because of an ongoing construction project. Read on to learn more about the program and why you no longer need a reservation for Yosemite (at least for now).

pond and mountain in Yosemite Park
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What was the Yosemite Reservations System?

At Yosemite and a number of popular national parks, a temporary reservation system was enacted in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It required visitors to book advance admission for day visits to the park during the peak summer season when visitor numbers are usually at their highest. Even those driving or traveling through the park on Highway 120 needed a reservation. The only people who didn’t need a reservation were those who booked overnight stays at Yosemite campgrounds, hotels, or in the backcountry.
In the early days, park officials limited the number of people allowed to enter the park to about half of what it usually was. For Yosemite, the past decade’s average annual attendance numbers often topped 4 million, reaching a peak in 2016 with 5.2 million visitors.

As nationwide pandemic restrictions loosened and park personnel shortages improved in 2021, officials relaxed reservation requirements, too. Travelers were only required to make advanced bookings for visits between 6 am and 4 pm; anyone visiting in the early morning or late in the day could enter without a reservation. Admission caps were raised to around 70% of historic park traffic, too. The reservation system remained in place for the summer of 2022 as many of the most popular visitor attractions were closed for renovations and critical infrastructure repairs.

couple hiking in the woods and taking photos
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gone… for now

Yosemite reservations were divisive from the start, drawing mixed opinions from visitors, park staff, and the local community. While in use, the program met its goal of limiting attendance when park staffing services were down and the pandemic was at its peak. Some even liked the policy as it cut down on the park’s infamous traffic congestion. Others, however, were not so thrilled; some travelers found it difficult to secure reservations and the admission caps reduced traffic to nearby communities that are economically dependent on tourism.

But while you may rejoice, for now, park officials say the reservation system may not be gone for good. According to officials, the suspension of the program is a chance to see what attendance looks like post-COVID, gauge public opinion, and improve crowd management tactics going forward. Some other popular national parks, like Zion in Utah, Glacier in Montana, and Rocky Mountain in Colorado, have already implemented long-term reservation systems for at least part of their peak seasons.

Travelers no longer need to book a reservation for Yosemite. With construction projects ending and staffing and services returning to pre-pandemic levels, Yosemite National Park is expected to accommodate more visitors in 2023 and beyond. Who knows what the future holds for Yosemite reservations, but, at least for now, you can visit the park without any extra hurdles. So, dust off your hiking boots and start planning your hassle-free outdoor excursion now.

Editors' Recommendations

Shannon Cooper
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Shannon Cooper has written about everything from pet care and travel to finance and plumbing in her seven years as a writer…
A guide to Indiana Dunes National Park: Where to visit, what to do, and more
Haven't visited the Indiana Dunes National Park? This is the guide to take you around every sandy curve
A view of the Indiana National Dunes Park.

Overlooking the southern shores of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park has long captivated visitors. In fact, it was there in the late 19th century that Henry Cowles, a botanist from the University of Chicago, studied the intricate ecosystems along the lake. His groundbreaking work established Cowles as “the father of modern ecology” in the United States. A little bit of history for your next trivia night.

Most people come to climb to the top of 194-foot Mount Tom, one of several towering dunes lording over the lakeshore. The park is home to gorgeous beaches and the biological diversity that so astonished pioneering botanists like Cowles. Meandering rivers, oak savannas, windswept prairies, and verdant wetlands are all part of the serene backdrop of one of America's newest national parks — becoming the country's 61st in 2019. If you haven't made a visit yet, we have the guide to get you there.
Exploring the lay of the land at Indiana Dunes National Park

Read more
How to get TSA PreCheck for free: 3 easy ways
You don't have to pay for TSA PreCheck using these methods
TSA PreCheck sign at airport.

Navigating through airports can often feel like a daunting task, especially when confronted with long security lines that seem to stretch into eternity. But what if there was a way to easily breeze through security checkpoints, avoiding the hassle of removing your shoes, belts, and laptops? Welcome to the world of TSA PreCheck, a game-changer for frequent travelers.

However, TSA PreCheck can be pricey, which leaves many people wondering how they can get this coveted privilege without breaking the bank. This is how to get TSA PreCheck for free.
Sign up for the right credit cards

Read more
There’s a new easy way to get a Southwest Airlines companion pass
You don't even need to get on a flight
Southwest Airplane

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is now more attainable than ever. The coveted Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit offered to frequent flyers, allowing the pass holder to designate one person as their “companion,” allowing them to fly with them for free (excluding taxes and fees) on any Southwest flight. The flight can be booked with both points and cash, and the pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it was earned, as well as the following calendar year.

Previously, the only way to qualify for a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass was to fly either 100 qualifying one-way flights or to earn 125,000 qualifying points within a calendar year. Once the companion pass is earned, it can be used an unlimited number of times during its validity period. Due to a new deal, getting a pass is currently easier than ever. From now until March 11, anyone who signs up for a new Southwest Rapid Rewards Consumer Credit Card from Chase has the opportunity to earn the Companion Pass.

Read more