Many people believe the best time to visit a national park is after Labor Day. After all, the temperature is a little cooler and the crowds are somewhat smaller because school has resumed.
It’s about to get even easier to visit Yosemite National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Both parks implemented reservation systems last spring to ease crowding and traffic congestion. Now that the peak tourism season has ended, both parks are set to end use of those systems.
Here’s what you need to know to visit Yosemite and Rocky Mountain national parks.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is well-known for its waterfalls, ancient sequoia trees, and, of course, the granite cliffs El Capitan and Half Dome. Then again, since there are nearly 1,200 square miles within its boundaries, the park is also home to deep valleys, giant meadows, vast sections of wilderness, and an abundance of wildlife.
Visitation numbers were down last year due to park closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but almost 4.5 million visitors traveled to Yosemite in 2019.
Officials at Yosemite put a day-use reservation system in place last spring to reduce crowd sizes. Indeed, officials said that the system would be in place through September 30, “or until local public health conditions improve” due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The health and safety of park visitors, employees, and partners continues to be our number one priority,” the National Park Service said in a press release.
Until September 30, day-use reservations are still required for all users, including annual and lifetime pass holders. Each reservation is valid for 3 days.
Visitors staying overnight in the park automatically have day-use permits included in their reservations. That includes anyone with a campground reservation, or those staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Wawona Hotel, or Curry Village. All of the lodging at the park requires reservations.
Day-use reservations are also included for all visitors with wilderness and Half Dome permits. Visitors entering Yosemite on a Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) bus or with an authorized tour group do not need an additional reservation or permit.
How To Make Reservations For Yosemite
You can book day-use reservations for Yosemite at Recreation.gov.
Reservations are available each day, beginning at 8 a.m. Pacific time. However, you’ll need to be prepared: Park officials explain that reservations are taken almost immediately. You can also make reservations over the phone. That number is (877) 444-6777.
You can find more information about making day-use reservations at Yosemite here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, just outside Estes Park, Colorado, is about a two-hour drive from Denver. The park, which encompasses 76 mountains that are all more than 10,000 feet high, is known for its 355 miles of hiking trails, where you can see bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and other wildlife.
Since 2012, the park has broken visitation records six times, and its visitor count jumped from 2.95 million in 2010 to 4.7 million in 2019. Also, although the park only had 3.3 million visitors in 2020 due to COVID-19 park closures, it was still the fourth most-visited national park, according to the National Park Service.
Park officials put a timed-entry reservation system in place this year. The system, which will be in place through October 11, offers two options.
The first option is to visit the enormously popular Bear Lake Road Corridor (BLRC) and the rest of the park as well. The second permit will be for Rocky Mountain National Park — excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor.
How To Make Reservations For Rocky Mountain
You can book reservations to enter Rocky Mountain at the Rocky Mountain National Park Timed Entry website. Tickets are already available for the rest of September and until October 11.
If you prefer, you can also call to make reservations. That phone number is (877) 444-6777.
Timed entry permit reservations at Rocky Mountain are free, however, there is a non-refundable $2 reservation processing fee.
Planning your Yosemite trip? Read up on:
- 10 Important Ranger Tips For Visiting Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite National Park: Best Places To Stay
- All our Yosemite content
If you’re planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, be sure to read up on: