Groups thinking about putting a national park on their itinerary will want to be aware of timed reservations that several of the parks are reintroducing this year.
Arches National Park, located in east-central Utah and which had a pilot vehicle registration system last year, will again initiate the program on April 1.
“We received many positive comments from people who enjoyed the guaranteed arrival time and reduced congestion they experienced during the 2023 vehicle reservation pilot,” says Arches National Park Acting Superintendent Brendan Bray. “A repeat pilot program in 2024 will help us learn more about how such systems can provide visitors with the opportunity for enjoyable experiences while protecting the extraordinary landscapes they come to see.”
Program parameters will be the same as the 2023 pilot, according to information from the park. Visitors can book reservations on a first-come, first-served basis through recreation.gov. Reservations will be released three months in advance in monthly blocks. As an example, reservations that opened in January are for the month of April. On Feb. 1, reservations will open for the month of May, and unreserved times in April will remain open. Additional months will continue the same pattern.
According to the National Park Service, the other national parks that will have timed reservations include:
- Glacier National Park, beginning May 24 for the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork, and on July 1 for Many Glacier.
- Rocky Mountain National Park, beginning May 24.
- Yosemite National Park will have a “Peak Hours Plus” vehicle reservation pilot system for park entry on the following dates: On weekends from April 13 to June 30; every day from July 1 to Aug. 16; and on weekends from Aug. 17 to Oct. 27.
- Zion National Park will require reservations to visit and hike the popular Angels Landing.
The aim of the timed entries is to help overcrowding at the parks. As an example, Arches National Park saw a 73% visitation growth rate—or an additional 2 million people annually—between 2011-2021, according to the NPS.
“This increase was concentrated during certain hours, causing congestion at key park destinations, reduced visitor enjoyment, and increased resource damage,” according to the agency. “During times of peak congestion prior to implementing the vehicle reservation pilots, the park had to temporarily close its gates until crowding lessened, resulting in many visitors being unable to enter the park at their preferred time or at all.”
It says the vehicle reservation pilots the previous two years “were successful in reducing congestion, improving visitor experiences, providing reliable access, and distributing visitation throughout the day.”
Main Image: Arches National Park, Utah, Credit: NPS/Veronica Verdin