Getting a campsite at Yosemite National Park can be quite a challenge, so the National Parks Service is testing a pilot lottery system this year for one of the most popular areas.
Participants have until February 6 to enter the lottery for campsites at North Pines Campground. Successful applicants will have an opportunity to make a reservation at the location for dates from July 21–September 14.
“The demand for reservations in Yosemite campgrounds through Recreation.gov far exceeds availability, especially in Yosemite Valley during the busiest times of the year,” the NPS said on its website. “This has been the case for decades, and demand has only increased over time.”
Park officials said more than 10,000 people visit Recreation.gov during Yosemite’s on-sale dates in hopes of getting a reservation, but they sell out in minutes.
“Hopeful campers take days off work and recruit family and friends to simultaneously try to make any possible reservation,” the NPS said. “Still, many are unsuccessful year after year, causing frustration, disappointment, and feeling the system is flawed and unfair.”
How Does The Lottery Work?
Interested people can apply for the lottery anytime until 8 p.m. on February 6 at Recreation.gov. The timing of when you apply does not impact your chances. A total of 640 applicants will be randomly selected by a computer.
Those chosen will get an email confirmation on February 10, giving them access to make a reservation starting February 18.
Making A Reservation
The 640 successful people will be given a time slot over a 3-week period when they can make their reservation. They can then reserve a campsite for any open dates or sites. Those who fail to make a reservation during their time slot still can make a reservation — if any are available — until the end of the early access period on March 10.
Those who fail to make a reservation by March 10 are then returned to the general public pool and will have to battle everyone else trying to make a reservation in the traditional system.
Those making reservations are limited to a single campsite and a limit of 7 nights. These are the same rules that apply whether campers are in the lottery system or the general public.
Those applying for the lottery must pay a non-refundable $10 fee, whether they are chosen or not. Those who successfully make a reservation will pay $36 per night for the campsite.
For the time being, the lottery system will apply only to North Pines. NPS officials will analyze the success of the program before expanding it, altering it, or dropping it for future sites.
Park officials are hoping this system solves some of the issues with general public reservation systems.
“We regularly receive complaints from users saying they were unsuccessful because they are not computer savvy, their computers or internet connection are not fast enough, or that bots (automated computer systems) got all the reservations, or that some users receive preferential treatment,” NPS officials said. “The early access lottery pilot is an attempt to address these concerns.”
For more information on Yosemite, check out our coverage on the park: