Over the course of the past few weeks, parks across the country have started to gradually reopen with a slew of new rules and regulations aimed at enabling park goers to recreate safely and responsibly. Plexiglass shields in visitor centers and capacity limits are becoming the norm. But Yosemite may go even further and require that visitors make reservations.
In a May 18 video call with local stakeholders, Yosemite officials revealed a draft plan to implement day-use reservations when the park reopens, which they hope will be in June. The system will limit daily car traffic in an effort to allow park goers to properly social distance, reports the Fresno Bee. Day-use reservations will be capped at 1,700 cars. An additional 1,900 vehicles associated with overnight reservations will also be allowed in. That’s about half of the approximate daily number of cars that entered the park in June 2019.
Reservations will be available in advance through the booking platform Recreation.gov, which many parks, including Yosemite, use to mete out camping reservations and backcountry permits. An online reservation system like this also reduces the need for in-person contact during entry fee payment. Pass holders would also have to reserve online, but they won’t need to pay a park admission fee, just a small reservation fee.
The fifth most-visited national park in the United States, Yosemite is no stranger to crowds. In the summers, traffic backs up in Yosemite Valley, home of Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and more big-name sites. The proposed reservation system might take some getting used to, but it will save visitors from waiting in line for hours only to get to the gate and learn that the park is full.
Yosemite closed to visitors on March 20, 2020, in response to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been slow among popular parks to announce a reopening plan; many other popular parks have already started reopening or plan to do so over the Memorial Day weekend. Its plan to gradually increase access also includes a phased opening of services and guest accommodations designed to limit crowds.
The California park is also not the only one to consider reservations. On May 12, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado announced that it would submit a proposal to the Department of the Interior to implement a timed entry permit system as part of its phased reopening. During the first stages, which are set to begin May 27, the park would limit visitors to 13,500—or 4,800 vehicles—per day, about 60 percent of its parking capacity. Park goers would receive an entry slot between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Folks entering outside those hours will not need a reservation—though park officials have noted that things may change if they see large numbers of people entering before 6 a.m. or after 5 p.m.