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If you want to know the U.S. national parks that require entry reservations or tickets in 2023, keep reading!
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Why do U.S. National Parks Require Entry Reservations & Tickets?
National parks in the United States have seen record levels of visitation during recent years. According to the National Park Service, there were 312 million recreation visits to National Park Service sites in 2022. This includes major national parks, and other sites like national monuments and recreation areas that are managed by the National Park Service.
Such high levels of visitation not only put a strain on park infrastructure, but have also led to harmful ecological impacts. To help mitigate the impacts of overcrowding, the National Park Service has begun implementing entry reservation and ticket systems in popular parks.
Entry reservation and ticket systems limit the number of visitors who may enter the park during a certain period of time. Some national parks require an entry ticket or reservation to access the entire park, while others only require reservations for certain areas.
Planning ahead and being prepared is always important when hiking and enjoying outdoor adventures. While national park vacations can be an incredibly rewarding way to connect with nature, visiting popular national parks often involves a little extra planning and preparation than the average vacation.
This post will help you navigate the entry reservation and ticket systems that are in place for 5 major U.S. national parks in 2023. I also include a bonus location in Colorado that you won’t want to miss!
The Two Types of National Park Entry Reservations & Tickets:
Daily entry. National parks with a daily entry reservation or ticket system allow you to enter the park at any time during the day of your reservation.
Timed entry. National parks with timed entry reservation systems assign you a specific window of time when you have to enter the park.
Important note: Any fee required for an entry reservation or ticket is above and beyond the standard national park fee. I always recommend purchasing an annual America the Beautiful pass if you plan on visiting more than one or two national park (and other federal recreation area) sites. The pass is $80. Seniors, veterans, and folks with disabilities can also get lifetime access passes.
Pros & Cons of National Park Entry Reservations & Tickets
- Placing a quota on the number of reservations issued limits the number of national park visitors leading to a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
- For some people, fully planning a trip out months in advance can provide peace of mind.
- You typically have to plan your trip months in advance, which means you can’t plan spontaneous trips to these national parks (although you can always try your luck at getting a last-minute reservations or tickets where applicable). This mainly impacts locals who recreate in the parks frequently.
- You have to pay an extra fee. National park vacations are becoming increasingly expensive, and while the additional reservation fees are minimal, getting nickel and dimed can add up over time. Plus the fees don’t even go back to the national parks or the National Park Service!
Don’t like the idea of having to make a reservation to visit a national park ahead of time? No worries! Only 5 of the 63 major U.S. national parks have entry reservation systems, so you have plenty of other options to choose from. You can also plan your trip around visiting national forests or BLM land, which typically see fewer visitors than national parks and have fewer regulations (exceptions apply, including one that I share as a bonus below).
What if I have lodging/campground/guiding reservations or a special use permit?
All of the national parks requiring entry reservations or tickets in 2023 have exceptions to the reservation requirements. Generally, if you have any type of lodging or campground reservation within a reservation area, then your reservation will serve as your entry ticket or reservation. Similar rules apply if you’ve hired a guiding service, have a special use permit, or a backcountry permit.
List of U.S. National Parks Requiring Entry Reservations in 2023
Here is the list of major U.S. national parks requiring entry reservations or tickets in 2023:
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park requires vehicle reservations in order to drive up Cadillac Summit Road between May 24-October 22, 2023. Cadillac Summit Road overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the most popular areas of the park, particularly at sunrise.
Due to the area’s popularity, entry tickets are required all day, unlike some of the other parks which allow for early and after hours access. There are separate tickets for daytime and sunrise access. Entry reservations are not required for other areas of Acadia National Park!
Dates: May 24-October 22, 2023
Hours: All day
When Tickets are Released: From May 24-June 30 reservations are available at 10am (ET) 2 days in advance of the reservation date. The National Park Service may close the road for paving during this time and vehicle reservations will not be available if it is. From July 1-October 22, 30% of the vehicle reservations will be available 90 days prior to the reservation date. The remaining 70% will be released at 10am 2 days in advance of the reservation date.
Where to Get Tickets:
Arches National Park
Arches National Park requires a timed entry ticket for the entire park between April 1-October 31, 2023 between the hours of 7am-4pm MT. This is a timed entry reservation system, which means your ticket will give you a 1-hour window to enter the park. Once you’ve entered the park during your 1-hour window you’re free to leave and reenter the park.
A timed entry ticket is not required if you enter before 7am or after 4pm. You also don’t need a ticket if you already have campground reservations inside of Arches, a Fiery Furnace permit, are on a commercial tour, or have a special use permit.
Tickets are released on a rolling basis in monthly blocks, 3 months in advance at 8am MST/MDT. This means that tickets for April go on sale in January, May in February, June in March, and so on and so forth. Limited numbers of tickets also become available the night before at 6pm MT.
Dates: April 1-October 31, 2023
Hours: 7am-4pm MT
When Tickets are Released: In monthly blocks on the first of the month (except January, which releases on the 10th), 3 months in advance at 8am MT. Ex. Tickets for the entire month of September go on sale June 1st at 8am. A limited number of tickets become available the night before at 6pm MT.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has the most complex national park vehicle reservation system in 2023. Vehicle entry reservations are required in the following areas of Glacier National Park: Going to the Sun Road, North Fork valley, Two Medicine valley, and Many Glacier valley.
Because there are so many different areas of Glacier National Park that require a vehicle reservation, it’s extra important to plan your trip well in advance. If you want to visit 2 different areas of the park on the same day you need to secure vehicle reservations for each area.
The Glacier National Park vehicle reservation system is a daily entry system, which means you can enter your reservation area anytime between 6am-3pm MT. Going to the Sun Road reservations provide you with 3 full days of access!
If you are unsuccessful at snagging a reservation you can still visit the North Fork, Two Medicine, or Many Glacier areas before 6am or after 3pm MT. There will be ongoing construction on Going to the Sun Road that prevents anyone from accessing it from the west entrance of Glacier National Park prior to 6am, but you can access it after 3pm without a reservation. You can also access the east side of Going to the Sun Road without a reservation before 6am.
Dates: Going to the Sun Road & the North Fork Area- May 26-September 10, 2023; Two Medicine and Many Glacier- July 1-September 10, 2023
Hours: 6am-3pm MT
When Tickets are Released: The first block of tickets gets released 120 days in advance on rec.gov. A second block of tickets are released at 8am 24 hours in advance.
Haleakala National Park
If you’re visiting Maui and want to catch the sunrise from Haleakala Summit you need to have a parking reservation. This is the only national park entry reservation system that runs year-round (because let’s be honest, Hawaii doesn’t have an off-season).
Having a reservation for Haleakala Summit ensures that you will be able to get a parking spot at one of the 4 sunrise viewing locations. The reservation system helps prevent traffic, overcrowding, and a potentially frustrating early-morning experience from full parking lots!
Hours: 3am-7am HST
When Tickets are Released: Reservations are available in 2 blocks. One 60 days in advance and one 2 days in advance. Reservations open at 7am HST.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park requires a timed entry reservation for the entire park between May 22-October 15, 2023. There are two options available. A timed entry reservation that provides access to Bear Lake Corridor and a reservation that excludes Bear Lake Corridor. You can choose which you would like when you make your reservation, but keep in mind that including Bear Lake Corridor is more popular and sells out faster.
Your timed entry reservation for Rocky Mountain National Park gives you a 2-hour window to enter the park. Once you’ve entered the park during your reservation window you are free to leave and reenter the park throughout the rest of the day.
A timed entry reservation is required even if you don’t go through one of the main entrance gates for Rocky Mountain National Park. In this situation the National Park Service asks that you print and display your reservation on your dashboard and be ready to show it to a ranger upon request.
Dates: May 22-October 15, 2023
Including the Bear Lake Corridor: 5am-6pm MDT
Excluding the Bear Lake Corridor: 9am-3pm MDT
When Tickets are Released: Reservations are released in blocks on the first of the month, a month in advance at 10am MDT. Ex. On June 1, reservations for the entire month of July will become available.
Keep in mind that this list only includes national parks that require reservations just to enter the park. This does not include information about permits for specific hikes like Angels Landing in Zion or Half Dome in Yosemite. It also doesn’t cover backcountry permits.
Every national park manages its backcountry permit system differently. The best resource for information is going to the official nps.gov website for the park or rec.gov, which typically has more up to date information about permit lotteries and reservations.
Maroon-Bells Recreation Area
Located in Aspen, the iconic Maroon Bells are the most photographed mountains in Colorado. The best place to view the Maroon Bells is from Maroon Lake in the Maroon-Bells Recreation Area. The Maroon-Bells Recreation Area is also the gateway to the Maroon-Bells Wilderness, where you can find some of the most scenic hiking trails in Colorado.
Due to the world-renowned popularity of the Bells and limited parking infrastructure, a vehicle parking reservation system has been put into place. Even though the Maroon-Bells Recreation Area is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the parking reservation and shuttle system are managed by the Aspen Chamber of Commerce.
There are 4 different types of parking reservations available for the Maroon-Bells Recreation Area:
- Day Use Parking: 12am-4:30pm MST (you must arrive prior to 8am from May 26-October 22, 2023)
- Evening Parking: 5pm-12am MST
- 24-hour Parking: Midnight-midnight (you must arrive prior to 8am from May 26-October 22, 2023)
- Overnight Parking: 2-nights (6am-6pm, 60 hours) (you must arrive prior to 8am from May 26-October 22, 2023)
If you aren’t able to get a parking reservation you can also take the shuttle from Aspen Highlands. Reservations for the shuttle are made through the same site as the parking reservations, so it’s easy to pivot to plan B if things are sold out!
Dates: May 15-October 31, 2023
Hours: All day
When Tickets are Released: All 2023 dates are currently available for reservation.
Where to Get Tickets:
Overnight Parking (keep in mind backpacking permits for the Maroon-Bells Wilderness require a separate reservation)
Want to plan a national park vacation with no entry reservations required? Check out this 3-day itinerary for North Cascades National Park. It’s one of the least visited national parks in the U.S.!