What Does This Mean For Your RV Adventure?
National Park Trip Planner: Do you ever ask yourself…do I just show up to a national park, is there an entrance fee, what else do I need to know? How do I make sure my National Park Trip plan covers all the basics?
To ensure your RV trip plan covers everything, here are a few things you should know.
National Parks are America’s best idea, and there are many great Parks available to all of us here in the U.S. Most of the National Parks have an entrance fee, there are a few that do not charge to explore their National Park. Additionally, the National Parks offers a fee-free day which provides you a great opportunity to visit a National Park you haven’t been to or visit an old favorite, especially one of the national parks that normally charge an entrance fee.
Prior to COVID, there were minimal restrictions getting into a National Park. A great national park trip planner tip is that now there are several National Parks that not only charge you an entrance fee but an additional fee. The additional fee is nominal and is not geared to restrict you from visiting the National Park, but to help thin the crowds down so each person can truly enjoy the National Park experience.
This is crucial information to know prior to getting out on the road. For many of the National Parks with this new entrance system, if you do not have the additional ticket, you will be turned away at the entrance gate.
When can you buy these special entry tickets?
Each Park is different, some release tickets up to 3 months in advance and then a limited number of tickets are usually released one day prior to entry. We are not kidding when we say get those tickets in the queue and ready to purchase per the National Park’s release date/time – they go FAST!!
National Park trip planner tip: there are some exceptions! Timed Entry reservations are usually not required if you have a campground or hotel booked inside the National Park or have obtained a backcountry permit. The Entrance Fee will still apply and you will be required to show your reservation or permit for entry into the National Park. We highly recommend you check each National Park to be aware of their requirements. Other exceptions may include entering the Park via bicycle, walking or hiking.
This Timed Entry system can be frustrating but we all will just have to get used to it.
Upon arrival at the National Park, you will need to have a printed or digital copy of the vehicle reservation with the confirmation QR code, which will be scanned to verify the reservation. Connectivity is unreliable in the park so be sure you don’t need the Internet to access your Reservation. Again, no Reservation, no Entry!
Every national park trip planner knows where to go to purchase these special entry tickets. Recreation.gov (https://www.recreation.gov/) – you must create an account in order to purchase tickets.
WHY WAS THIS RESERVATION SYSTEM CREATED?
Many National Parks have experienced record breaking guests annually since 2020. For example, Great Smoky Mountain National Park had an astonishing 1.5 million guests, shattering their previous attendance record. The massive crowds lead to frustrated guests and park staff. More people equals more traffic, which is more wear and tear on the park. Officials are desperate for a way to provide a memorable experience for as many as possible, regardless of the increased demand. Parks have implemented these reservations systems over the past few years and learned what works and what doesn’t. These reservation systems will limit the amount of guests allowed in entirely, or only limit the amount of guests in a certain popular locations. The fee is minimal so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy the National Park. Be sure you add this to your National Park Trip Planner.
To help your national park trip planning, here is a list of which parks are requiring reservations for 2022. We’ve listed a few of the more popular National Parks to assist you as you work on your RV trip plan. If the National Park you wish to visit isn’t listed, be sure to go to their website and check to see if there are any special entry requirements.
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK (Maine)
One of the biggest attractions at Acadia is driving up Cadillac Summit Road. You can’t miss the view from the top. In order to enjoy this incredible view, you will need a reservation if visiting from 6:30am to 7:30pm.
From May 25 to October 22, 2022, you need to purchase a $6 vehicle reservation. The park releases 30% of these reservations 90 days ahead of the date. The remaining 70% are released at 10 am EST two (2) days in advance.
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK (Utah)
Officials knew something had to change when visitors were waiting hours to get in and then had trouble finding parking. Over Memorial Day weekend 2021, the park implemented a timed entry reservation system. Satisfied with the results, the park implemented the system again in 2022.
So for 2022 from April 3 to October 3 visitors are required to purchase a Timed Entry Ticket if visiting Arches between the hours of 6am to 5pm daily.
- Those visitors who can snag an entry reservation, can stay as long as they like, but they must enter during their allotted time or they won’t be allowed into the park.
- Tickets are only good for one day, so if you plan to spend multiple days in the park, it will take some planning.
- Didn’t get a Timed Entry Ticket? Plan to visit the park before 6am or after 5pm.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK (Montana)
Going To The Sun Road is Glacier’s most visited attraction. There are a couple of things to be aware of:
- Vehicle Size Restriction: Any vehicle over 21 feet long, 10 feet high and 8 feet wide (including mirrors) is restricted. So if your vehicle does not comply with this requirement, you will need to take a tour or rent a car.
- Another good thing to know: Last year in 2021, Glacier adopted a ticketed entry system for the Going to the Sun Road. The Park has implemented this system for 2022.
- A vehicle reservation is required for vehicles entering Going-To-The-Sun Road and the North Fork area between May 27 and September 11, 2022 between 6am and 4pm.
- In addition to a vehicle reservation, you will also need a Park Pass.
- The Ticketed Entry reservation is valid for three (3) consecutive days for a $2 fee.
- Tickets can be reserved 60 days in advance. Better be quick because they go fast.
You didn’t get a pass and still want to go to Glacier National Park? You do have options.
- Take a guided tour to Going-To-The-Sun Road or visit before 6am and after 4pm when a ticketed entry ticket is not required.
- Visit areas that do not have this restriction such as Many Glacier Valley, Two Medicine Valley, Cut Bank, the area between the St. Mary Entrance and Rising Sun and any of the park areas along Hwy 2 and Chief Mountain Highway. Keep in mind, these areas are subject to vehicle restriction if vehicle capacity is exceeded.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK (Colorado)
Beginning May 27 to October 10, 2022, you’ll need a timed entry ticket to enter the park. You can get tickets on the first of the month prior to the date you want to visit. After that, 25% to 30% of the tickets will be held until the day prior at 5pm. There will be 2 different permits, one for Bear Lake Road Corridor and one for the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park. Make sure to research so you know which one meets the needs of your RV adventure.
Didn’t get a Timed Entry Permit?
- Rocky Mountain National Park, excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor, ca be accssed without a Permit before 9am and after 3pm
- Bear Lake Road Corridor, can be accessed before 5am or after 6pm.
You will still be required to pay the entrance fee or use your Park Pass when entering the National Park.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK (Virginia)
Shenandoah National Park has implement a pilot program for visitors wishing to hike trails in the Old Rag Area (Saddle, Ridge and Ridge Access trails). All visitors will need to purchase an Old Rag day-use ticket I advance, in addition to an entrance pass. This program will begin March 1 and end November 30, 2022. The Park is hoping to collect data from this program to implement a more permanent system in the future.
- Each Old Rag day-use ticket will cost $1.00 and covers one person. So a group of four (4) hikers will need to have four (4) separate tickets.
- You can purchase up to four (4) tickets per day under one name
- Tickets are released 30 days and 5 days prior to the date of your hike. They will also be available to purchase the day of.
- If you are planning to camp in the Old Rag Mountain backcountry, the Old Rag day-use ticket must be purchased.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (California)
In 2020, Yosemite National Park first implemented it day-use reservation system. The Park has returned the Day-Use Reservation System for 2022 to help alleviate traffic congestion due to the many Yosemite construction projects planned in 2022.
Each vehicle entering the National Park will be required to have a Day-Use Reservation when visiting from May 20 through September 30, 2022 during the hours of 6am to 4pm. This includes traveling along Hwy 120 which travels through the National Park.
- 70% of reservations for visits May 20 through September 30, 2022 were made available on March 23, 2022.
- 30% of reservations will be made available seven (7) days before the arrival date.
Reservations are available each day at 8 am Pacific time. Reservations are taken almost immediately. Be sure to have a Recreation.gov account and be logged in and ready to get a reservation promptly at 8 am Pacific daylight time. Each User can make one reservation for each three (3) day period.
The non-refundable reservation fee is $2 (this does not include the $35-per-car park entrance fee).
ZION NATIONAL PARK (Utah)
Angels Landing is one of the most popular destinations in Zion National Park. Many who go there want to experience untamed adventure and get a classic photograph. This is a strenuous hike.
In response to concerns about crowding and congestion on the trail, Zion National Park has implemented a pilot permit program effective April 1, 2022. You can enter the lottery 3 months in advance or up until 1 day before the trip.
- Seasonal Lottery –
- You can apply for a permit before your trip. You will get to pick seven ranked days and times or windows of days and times you want to hike.
- Find the date you plan to be in Zion and use recreation.gov to apply for a permit during your application window.
- Day-before Lottery –
- You can apply for a permit the day before your planned hike. On and after March 31, 2022, this lottery opens every day at 12:01 a.m. and closes at 3 p.m. Mountain Time (MT).
SO HOW LONG IS THIS SYSTEM GOING TO BE IN PLACE?
The parks that have implemented this system have given no indication of when they’ll discontinue it. As long as the immense demand for tickets continues, you can be sure the reservation system won’t go away anytime soon.
While the reservation system may be frustrating, it does offer a handful of benefits such as crowd control, reduced damage to natural spaces, improved experience while in the park and it will help keep wildlife safe.
We hope you found this information helpful as you develop your National Park Trip Planner!