June 12, 2024
National Park Service emblem by afagen is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0. 750

National Park Service emblem by afagen is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0. 750

Are you planning a trip to a national park in the United States? If so, make sure to check out our guide on how to make a reservation for the park. This will help you choose the best activities and accommodations for your visit. In addition, we'll tell you about some of the special considerations you should take into account when making a reservation.

National Park Reservations: How to Make a Reservation for a Park in the United States [2023]

Visiting a national park in the United States has never been more popular. With more and more people turning to outdoor recreation to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, national parks are becoming busier than ever. As a result, many parks are now requiring visitors to make reservations or secure timed-entry permits in order to enter. To learn how to make a reservation for a national park in the United States, read on!

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National Park Service emblem by afagen is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0. 750 1
National Park Service emblem by afagen is licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0. 750 1

What Is a National Park?

A national park is an area of land that is preserved for its natural beauty, wildlife and historical significance. National parks are typically managed by the National Park Service, an agency of the United States Department of the Interior.

Visitors to national parks can experience a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, boating and horseback riding. More recently, many parks are implementing reservation systems in order to manage the influx of visitors and protect their natural resources.

National Parks that Require a Reservation or Permit (2023)

Starting in 2023, nine of the 63 major U.S. National Parks will have reservations in addition to entrance fees requirements. Make sure you plan ahead and book your spot early so that you can take full advantage of all these beautiful parks have to offer.

  1. Acadia National Park, Maine
  2. Arches National Park, Utah
  3. Glacier National Park, Montana
  4. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
  5. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  6. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  7. Yosemite National Park, California
  8. Zion National Park, Utah
  9. Muir Woods National Monument, California

Several national parks across the U.S. are implementing reservation and timed entry programs in order to manage the influx of tourists in the new year. Two of the most popular parks that have tested pilot timed entry programs in 2022 and will keep that up in 2023 are Arches National Park in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

At Arches National Park, visitors will need to book their timed entry in advance if they want to enter between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., starting April 1 and extending to October 31, 2023. Reservations for the park can be purchased first-come first-serve at Recreation.gov starting at 8 a.m. MST on January 10, 2023. Reservations will be released three months in advance in blocks, rolling out from April to October. Upon booking, visitors will receive a timed entry ticket for a one-hour window.

Rocky Mountain National Park will also require timed entries in 2023, with reservations available from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the rest of the park. Entry windows are two hours, and reservations can be purchased at the same web address. Tickets for Rocky Mountain National Park will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, May 1 and will apply to reservations from May 26 to June 30. After that, reservations will be sold one month in advance starting on the first day of the previous month. 40% of reservations will be available the day before at 5 p.m.

Those who don’t plan ahead will have to try to get tickets at 6 p.m. the day before their visit. Tickets aren’t available at park entrances, and must be bought online at Recreation.gov or on the phone. Those with camping permits, backcountry permits, Fiery Furnace permits, special use permits, concessions contracts, or commercial use authorisations will not require a timed entry ticket.

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7539670436 05507d7283 k

How to Make Reservations and Obtain Permits for Visiting National Parks?

Step 1: Research the requirements for making reservations for the park

Making reservations to visit a national park can seem daunting, but thankfully recreation.gov makes the process as straightforward as possible. To ensure you get the dates you want, it is best to create an account ahead of time, have your dates planned out, and have the latest web browser installed.

Make sure to read all the details of your reservation before checking out to ensure you know what to expect once you arrive. The recreation.gov mobile app is also available to access trip information on the go. [Android] [IOS]

When it comes to making the actual reservation, you can find specific camping and lodging site types such as tent/RV sites, cabins and cottages, lean-tos, and remote and group campsites.

You can also search and reserve day-use pavilions, filter results by accessibility needs, pets allowed, waterfront, and park activities, or discover available sites for the upcoming weekend.

Step 2: Making a reservation

Reservations can be done through one of three ways: online, by calling the Reservation Call Center at 1-888-409-7579 (Mon–Fri, 9am–4pm), or by calling the park directly (during the season).

Making a reservation is easy. All you have to do is go to the recreation.gov website and search for your desired park. Once you have found the park, you can look at the available dates and reserve your spot. If you are feeling spontaneous, you can also camp in a campground without reservations, space permitting. Finally, you can support parks you love by rounding up your purchase to the nearest dollar.

Keep in mind that reservations for popular parks fill up months in advance, so it is suggested to reserve day passes, especially on weekends and holidays, and day and overnight sites, as well as some tours and activities.

Bryce Canyon National Park Entrance Sign by Al HikesAZ is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0.
Bryce Canyon National Park Entrance Sign by Al HikesAZ is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0.

Step 3: Find out if reservations are available for the park

To find out if reservations are available for a national park, you can use the park finder to explore all the parks. Once you have chosen the park you want to visit, you can go to the reservations website to check for availability.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Visit the park finder website and choose the park you want to visit.
  2. Go to the reservation website for the park and check for availability.
  3. Create an account if you don’t already have one.
  4. Select the dates and site type you are looking for.
  5. If the site is available, you will be able to make a reservation.
  6. Enter your payment information and complete the reservation.
  7. You will receive a confirmation email with your reservation details.

Step 4: Find out about the different types of reservations available

The types of reservations available vary depending on the park. Generally, visitors can reserve tours and tickets to participate in special events and experiences, camping and lodging sites such as tent/RV sites, cabins and cottages, lean-tos, and remote and group campsites, day use pavilions, and gift cards/certificates. In addition, users can search for available sites for the upcoming weekend, filter results by accessibility needs, pets allowed, waterfront, and park activities, view photos of a favorite site/facility, review, change, and cancel current reservations, and start tracking historic reservation details within a new account.

Competition for popular sites can be fierce, so visitors should create an account ahead of time, have their dates planned (including backup options), and checkout within 15 minutes of adding a reservation to their cart to ensure the site is not released back into inventory. Camping without reservations is also possible if space allows.

Step 5: Consider whether you need to make one of the following types of reservations: Backcountry, Group, or Specialty Reservation

Visiting a national park can be a great way to explore the outdoors, but it can be difficult to know where to start. There are several different types of reservations for national parks that can be beneficial for visitors.

  1. The first type of reservation is for camping and lodging. This includes tent or RV sites, cabins and cottages, lean-tos, and remote and group campsites. It is recommended to have a reservation for camping and lodging as some sites are more popular than others and can book up quickly.
  2. Another type of reservation is for day use pavilions. These can be used for picnics and other outdoor activities. It is recommended to make a reservation for day use pavilions to ensure the space is available when you arrive.
  3. The third type of reservation is for special events and experiences. These reservations are for tours, tickets, and other events or experiences within the national park. It is recommended to make a reservation for these activities ahead of time so that you can guarantee a spot.
  4. Finally, there are reservations for rates and operating dates. This type of reservation is used to set dates and times for park visits and to ensure that the park is open when you arrive.

Overall, there are several different types of reservations that can be beneficial to visitors when visiting a national park. Reservations can help guarantee a spot at certain locations, as well as ensure that the park is open for your visit.

Death Valley National Park Sign by Spolster is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0.
Death Valley National Park Sign by Spolster is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0.

Step 6: Make a reservation as early as possible

It is important to make a reservation as early as possible when visiting national parks due to the limited availability of sites and services. In some cases, reservations can be made up to 13 months in advance and they open at 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, so making sure to book as soon as possible will help secure the best spots. Reservations are held in the shopping cart for a maximum of 20 minutes, so if you do not check out within that time the spot will be released back into inventory for others to reserve. For extremely popular destinations, it is recommended to create an account ahead of time and have your dates planned out so that the slots can be snagged as soon as they go on sale. This is essential for making sure that you have the perfect spot for your visit to the national park.

Step 7: Check out reviews and ratings of the park’s accommodations and activities

To find out what accommodations and activities are available at a national park, the first step is to use the park finder tool on the website to explore all parks in the area. From there, you can use the filter options to narrow down your search to the specific park you are interested in. Once you have identified the park, you can view photos of the facilities and explore the range of activities available. You can also use the reservation website to check availability for camping and lodging sites such as tents/RV sites, cabins and cottages, lean-tos, and remote and group campsites, or to reserve day use pavilions.

Step 8: Consider which type of vehicle is best suited for driving through the park

When choosing a vehicle for visiting national parks, there are several factors to consider. For example, some parks require reservations or timed-entry permits to visit, while others may not. You should also look into the specific vehicle types that are allowed in the park. Some parks may allow camper vehicles such as campervans, while others may have restrictions on modified vehicles. You should consider the available rental options for camping and lodging sites, and the type of activities that are available in the park.

For example, some parks may offer waterfront sites for camping or day-use pavilions. Other parks may be better suited for hikers or those looking for a remote camping experience. Finally, it is important to consider your accessibility needs, as some parks may offer sites that are better suited for those with mobility requirements. By considering these factors, you can ensure that you choose the right vehicle for visiting national parks.

Step 9: Make sure that you have enough money to pay for any fees associated with your reservation

When making reservations and obtaining permits for visiting national parks, there are several fees associated. These include entrance fees, reservation fees, camping fees, and harbor fees.

  1. Entrance fees are required to confirm and guarantee reservations and can be paid with a Discover, MasterCard, or Visa credit card.
  2. Camping fees may be paid in advance or upon arrival, depending on the park.
  3. Harbor fees are required for any water vessel entering a park; this includes boats, kayaks, canoes, and other watercrafts.
  4. Reservation fees, which are in addition to any entrance fees, are required for all in-park lodging and camping.
Joshua Tree National Park sign by Like the Grand Canyon is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0.
Joshua Tree National Park sign by Like the Grand Canyon is licensed under CC BY NC 2.0.

Step 10: Consider making a reservation for one or more activities that are offered at the park.

National parks offer a wide variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, from camping to biking to fishing. To make a reservation for one or more of these activities, you can use the recreation.gov website or mobile app. Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to make a reservation:

  1. Create an account on recreation.gov, or sign in to an existing account.
  2. Look through the activities available at the park or parks you’re interested in visiting.
  3. Select one or more activities, and add them to your cart.
  4. Input your dates and any other information that is required.
  5. Review your reservation details, then checkout.

FAQs

How do I make a reservation for a national park in the United States?

Making a reservation for a national park in the United States is easy and straightforward. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Choose a national park: Research the various national parks in the United States and decide which one you would like to visit.
  2. Check reservation requirements: Some parks, such as Yellowstone and Yosemite, require reservations for camping and lodging. Check the park’s website for more information about reservation requirements.
  3. Make a reservation: You can make a reservation for a national park online or by calling the Reservation Call Center at 1-888-409-7579 (Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm). Reservations can be made up to eleven months in advance.
  4. Follow park rules: Make sure to follow all park rules and regulations. Some activities, such as fishing and horseback riding, may require permits.
  5. Support the parks: Consider rounding up your reservation amount to support the parks. This will help preserve the places you love.

What types of permits are available for national parks?

National parks offer a variety of permits for visitors. The most common type of permit is for camping, which allows visitors to stay overnight in the park. Other permits include day-use permits, which grant access to certain trails or sites for a limited period of time; backcountry permits, which grant access to wilderness areas; and special-use permits, which grant access for activities such as weddings, special events, and research projects. In some cases, visitors may need to apply for a permit ahead of time through an online system such as recreation.gov.

How far in advance do I need to make a reservation for a national park?

You can make camping and harbor reservations up to six months in advance and lodging reservations up to a year in advance for most National Parks. Additionally, some park sites require timed-entry reservations year-round.

What information do I need to make a reservation for a national park?

To make a reservation for a national park, you will need your email address, home and work phone numbers, trailer or RV lengths (if applicable), credit card details for payment, license plate numbers for all vehicles entering the park, and knowledge of all Parks and Wildlife regulations, rules, and policies. Additionally, you should create an account on Recreation.gov with your desired dates (and backup options) to be ready when reservation slots open, have the latest web browser, and avoid having multiple browsers or tabs open while booking. Finally, you should also be aware of any timed-entry reservations and reservation fees (in addition to any entrance fees required by the parks) that may be required.

Denali National Park AK Summer by faunggs photos is licensed under CC BY ND 2.0.
Denali National Park AK Summer by faunggs photos is licensed under CC BY ND 2.0.

What are the fees associated with making a reservation for a national park?

The fees associated with making a reservation for a national park depend on the park and the activity. For example, reservations for sunrise at Haleaka National Park cost $1 per vehicle, while parking passes for Muir Woods National Monument cost $9 for standard vehicles and $3.50 per person age 16 and up. To hike Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, there is a $1 reservation fee per person, while the Washington Monument requires a $1 reservation fee per person. If you plan to hike Angels Landing at Zion National Park, you must pay $6 for an online lottery and an additional $3 per person if you get a permit. In addition to these reservation fees, there may also be entrance fees required by the parks. All reservations can be made at Recreation.gov.

What are the different types of lodging available at national parks?

At national parks across the United States, there are a variety of lodging options for travelers to choose from. These include safari tents, geodesic domes, cabins, yurts, cottages, tent/RV sites, lean-tos, remote and group campsites, day use pavilions, and hotel-style lodge rooms. Many of these accommodations offer amenities such as full-electrical hookups, restrooms, shower facilities, and ADA accessibility. Additionally, visitors can rent RVs and outdoor gear like tents, packs, and sleeping bags to make their trip even more convenient.

Are there any special considerations I should take into account when making a reservation for a national park?

It is important to check ahead to ensure that the park you plan to visit does not require timed-entry reservations or other types of reservations. Some parks, such as Zion National Park, require an online lottery for access to popular trails like Angels Landing. Additionally, some parks, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Acadia National Park, Arches National Park, Yosemite National Park and Glacier National Park, have seasonal reservation requirements that have ended with the summer travel crush. It is also important to note any park closures or changes in terrain. For example, Cadillac Summit Road in Acadia National Park closes for the season on November 14. Furthermore, it is important to pay attention to park regulations and guidelines for responsible recreation, such as staying on marked trails and leaving no trace.

Final Thoughts

National parks are some of the most beautiful places on earth. But just like any other tourist destination, they can get busy. To avoid disappointment, make sure to plan ahead and reserve your spot by checking out our guide on how to make a reservation for a park in the United States. This will help you choose the best times to visit and find accommodations that fit your needs. With careful planning, you’ll have an unforgettable adventure in one of America’s national treasures!

Happy Trails,

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National park
A national park is a natural park in use for conservation purposes, created and protected by national governments. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural

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