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Reserve Now: These National Parks Require Timed Entry Reservations for 2023

Sick of crowds? Timed entry at national parks could be the solution. Three major parks will use the system in 2023, with several others limiting access to popular destinations within the parks.

a vista shot through an archArches National Park, one of the parks moving to timed-entry reservations this year; (photo/Shutterstock)
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Wallace Stegner famously said, “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely America, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Anybody who’s ventured into one of America’s popular national parks in the last few years knows that besides being our best idea, they might also be our most popular (rock and roll excluded).

Some national parks are turning to timed entry to manage their ever-growing crowds and limited resources. So if you’re planning on hitting some parks this summer, you might want to go ahead and start lining up reservations — in fact, a few of these parks are already booked up for summer and well into booking for September!

Here’s the breakdown. And remember, these timed entry reservations are wholly different from the entrance fee many parks also require. So get those annual park passes renewed and reservations ready!

Arches National Park

Cedar Tree 'Rainbow' Arch at Rattlesnake Arches Park
Rattlesnake Canyon Trail at Arches National Park.

Timed entry reservations to access the park are required through Oct. 31, 2023. Per the park’s website, Arches will release tickets on a first-come, first-served basis on Recreation.gov three months before the entry date.

For instance, visitors planning to enter the park anytime in September can begin making reservations on June 1 at 8 a.m. MDT. That means if you plan on visiting in July, you need to head to Recreation.gov right now to see if any slots are left.

The park will also sell limited timed entry tickets for next-day visitors. Or, if you are an early bird, you can get into the park before 7 a.m. without a timed entry ticket. (You’ll still have to pay the entry fee.)

Glacier National Park

a road winds through a tunnel with mountains in the background
Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Timed entry vehicle reservations are required between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. for Going-to-the-Sun Road and North Fork from May 26 through Sept. 10, 2023. Two other entrances (Many Glacier and Two Medicine) require timed entry between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. between July 1 and Sept. 10.

Similar to Arches, Glacier releases the timed entry reservations in blocks. The park is currently accepting reservations for early September 2023.

Rocky Mountain National Park

lake covered with lily pads at Rocky mountain national park
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

This park has divided its timed entry system into two tiers: “Park Access” and “Park Access+,” one of which you’ll need between May 26 and Oct. 22, 2023. (This means there are no timed reservations required between now and when summer hours start on May 26!)

The “Park Access” entry pass covers the entire park, except the Bear Lake Road corridor, and allows entry between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. The “Park Access+” option allows full access to the park, including the Bear Lake Road area, and allows entry from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Those with campground reservations will not also need a timed entry reservation to enter.

On May 1, timed entry permits were released for the dates of  opening on May 26 through June 30. The next release will occur on June 1 for all dates during the month of July and any remaining days not fully reserved during the prior month. This system will continue through the month of October.

According to the park, “40 percent of all reservations will be released via Recreation.gov on the day prior to a desired arrival date at 5 p.m. MDT.” This means that on your planned day of visit, there may still be reservations available, but take it from us — they go very fast.

Timed Entry at Other National Parks

Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park; (photo/Xiaoling Keller)

While Arches, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain are the only three national parks to enforce timed entry reservations for the entire park, many other parks in the system use a similar strategy for limiting visitors to specific sections or anticipated crowded attractions. For instance, Acadia National Park is using a timed entry system for Cadillac Summit Road this year (in effect from May 24 through Oct. 22).

Zion National Park’s famous Angels Landing hike requires permits year-round, and those permits are awarded via a lottery system. Shenandoah National Park and Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii will also require timed entry permits to access specific areas.

Yosemite National Park is ending the timed entry system it turned to during the height of the COVID-19 years, just as Mount Rainier National Park is considering moving to implement a similar entry system. Rainier saw visitation rise by almost half a million people between 2008 and 2021, according to a National Park Service press release.

Rainier park management is seeking public comment about the proposed move to timed entry. The comment period ends on June 11, 2023, with “implementation proposed for summer 2024.”

So no matter which of these parks you’re visiting, it’s a safe bet there will be some sort of reservation system in place either now or in the future.

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