Unusually high construction initiatives will force new reservation requirements for summer 2022, according to Yosemite officials.
As concern over Yosemite Valley’s increasing traffic problem mounts and construction projects pile up, park officials responded with a new permit system.
From May 20 to Sept. 30, 2022, everyone visiting Yosemite from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. will need to make an online reservation. A few notable exceptions to the new system exist (more on that later).
Officials hope the plan will ease traffic in the park, improving the visitor experience. The National Park Service (NPS) doesn’t specify how many permits will be available each day.
Get ready — the first round of reservations goes live this Wednesday, March 23.
Why: Deferred Maintenance Needs
“Everybody deserves a great park experience,” Yosemite Superintendent Cicely Muldoon told the East Bay Times. “If we did nothing, there would be gridlocked traffic all summer long, every day.”
Muldoon is probably right about the gridlock. By now, traffic on the historic Loop Road is as familiar as the Half Dome skyline. Yosemite visitation shows no signs of slowing down, and anyone familiar with the road knows the one-way loop naturally bottlenecks in various places. Congestion only figures to get worse.
This year, the NPS’ substantial maintenance plan might amplify the effect. The agency plans to close numerous critical areas along the way for long-overdue infrastructure repairs.
In 2020, the Yosemite Conservancy reported that the park had a deeper backlog of “deferred maintenance” than any other national park.
In a statement, it said Yosemite needed $680 million in “necessary repairs or maintenance on infrastructure and systems that have been postponed for at least a year due to budget constraints.”
This year’s projects amount to $100 million in total repairs. Glacier Point Road, which comes in from outside the park and leads to the Overlook, will be closed all year as a substantial part of that work.
The road facilitates access to multiple popular parking areas and trailheads. But 10 miles of pavement repairs scheduled for 2022 will likely result in more traffic on the main loop.
Other maintenance includes trail and facility work at Bridalveil Falls and several campground closures. The park will close Tuolumne Meadows, Crane Flat, and Bridalveil Creek for repairs on aging water systems, restrooms, and other facilities.
The East Bay Times reported that roughly 800 of the 1,860 parking spaces in Yosemite Valley and the Glacier Point area would be off-limits this summer.
How to Make 2022 Yosemite Reservations
If you know your Yosemite dates now, get ready to get on the list. The NPS will make 70% of reservations for all dates (May 20 to Sept. 30, 2022) available on Recreation.gov on March 23. Each reservation lets the visitor in for 3 consecutive days.
For shorter-term planning, the NPS will set aside 30% of all reservations until 7 days before visitors’ planned arrival dates. Translation: If you miss out on the initial 70%, check the website the week before you plan to show up. In that case, you won’t be able to make reservations more than 7 days before your trip.
Reservations become available at 8 a.m. PT every day. The NPS advises that they get swiped “almost immediately.” To stay on the ball, make sure you’re logged in to your Recreation.gov account and ready to hit the “go” button promptly in the morning.
Each reservation costs a $2 nonrefundable fee (on top of the park’s $35-per-car entrance fee).
Several other permits exempt Yosemite visitors from the new system. If you already have a reservation for one of the following, you don’t need an additional reservation.
- Yosemite National Park campgrounds, including Curry Village, Housekeeping Camp, Yosemite Valley Lodge, The Ahwahnee, White Wolf Lodge, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, and the Wawona Hotel
- Private lodging or vacation rental in Wawona, Yosemite West, or Foresta
- Yosemite wilderness permit (including Wilderness Climbing Permits)
Yosemite also doesn’t require a reservation if you come in on a Yosemite Area Regional Transporation System (YARTS) bus or with an authorized tour group.
All in all, this summer figures to be a convoluted one in Yosemite. But according to Superintendent Muldoon, the overdue upkeep work should provide lasting infrastructural stability.
“It’s going to be messy this summer, but it will set the park up for decades,” she said, referring to the construction. “We are replacing things that are 50, 60, 70 years old … Visitors don’t see the duct tape and baling wire that holds this place together.”
For more, check out Yosemite’s Plan Your Visit page.