Reservations required to visit a National Park?

Reservations required to visit a National Park?
Zion Canyon trail

In the latest development in the “crowding of America,” Utah’s Zion National Park is now proposing requiring reservations to visit the park. No reservation? Then you don’t get in, or at least you can’t stay and explore. It would still be okay to drive through: Just don’t stop to hike or picnic!

Under the proposal, a reservation would be required to enter Zion Canyon, the most scenic area of the park and where popular trails are located. Vehicle traffic was banned during the tourist season years ago: Shuttles now transport visitors in and out of the six-mile canyon. Waiting times standing in line for a ride can be hours during the busiest times.

Park shuttle

After a series of public meetings, Zion rangers are proposing an online reservation system, similar to the way campsites are reserved now. While certain hikes and activities require permits or reservations, the new system would apply to the entire main corridor of the park.

Zion welcomed 4.3 million people last year, and is the fifth most visited National Park.

Other National Parks are also considering measures to throttle visitors, which in some instances are becoming unmanageable.

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37 thoughts on “Reservations required to visit a National Park?

  1. john stahl

    Travel to our beautiful National Parks in the ‘off seasons’ when there are not so many people there.

  2. Joyce DeBarger

    The problem is not limited to the US. We are currently in Banff National Park in Alberta, Ca. Today we waited in line to hike a canyon and then the trail resembled the line to a ride in an amusement park. If you were not on the road to Lake Louise and Moraine by 8 am you could not go up the road. Unfortunately a reservation system may be needed as population increases. We need to preserve our precious gems.

    1. Terry

      Canada waived entry fees this year for the National parks, even for US visitors, in celebration of its 150th. Suspect that increased the volumes exponentially…

  3. Jillie

    In Michigan? You have to have something during peak season 6 months ahead. State Parks are the same. Just remember this. You are 15 minutes away from a bear.

  4. Curious Mike

    I have no problem with NPS requiring reservations to visit those National Parks that have overcrowding problems. Maybe requiring reservations mid-May thru Mid-Sept would be enough to lighten the load. We just got home from spending a week in Colorado. 2 days in the Pikes Peak area and 3 days in the Rocky Mountain NP area. The crowds were brutal at both places. Lots of patience and some common courtesy by everyone visiting the parks is needed to have an enjoyable visit.

  5. Charlie

    Our government advertises to bring in the foreign dollars.

    Seems to me that increasing the number of National Parks and the size of some of them would be a very valid idea.

    Another issue is the lack of camping sites in the parks, if we look at the population growth it’s time to add more sites, how about a little help from the manufacturers at the congressional level.

  6. Mary Ann

    I think the reservation idea is good. In Florida certain popular springs have visitor quotas. Just so many people are allowed on the river per day. The first-come first-serve system means you need to be up early to get your place in line. Much better for the national parks to have reservations. Better experience for the visitors and a good way to protect our magnificent parks.

  7. Dennis Daire

    Unfortunately I have to agree that the parks are very crowded. Too many bus tours full of foreigners. One certainly can’t blame them the parks are wonderful things to see. In May of this year we went to the big 5 in Utah as well as the Grand Canyon, they were all very awe inspiring as well as awfully overcrowded. Not really sure what the best solution is, maybe limit the days bus tours are allowed to get in to the parks. However what we noticed is if you go early in the day the crowds are not bad and the buses have not got there yet. I suppose the worst thing that can be said is that our parks are being loved to death.

  8. Joel Vinson

    The Great Smokey Mountains is mind boggling crowded, but if you wait your turn, or go really early; you can maneuver somewhat better. The amount of foreigners is ever increasing, but I’ve found them to be nice, but if I see people being destructive or littering, I just tell the authorities and let them take care of it. I don’t care for the reservations, but increased fees for foreigners would be good with me. Increase the amount of mass transit, but have adequate places to park. Overcrowding will only get worse, we just can’t sweat the small stuff and let the proper authorities take care of the big stuff. As an avid RV’er and NPS visitor, we do the best we can with what we’ve got and live it as an adventure.

    1. PJ

      Just left Mt Rainier and we were saying they could really make some money if the enforced the rules with fines. Charging for permits to use certain areas that Indoubt are patrolled since the visitor center area “rules” were not enforced. Charge by the hour for parking and fine those who don’t respect our delicate natural resources would be a good start.

  9. Diane M

    To whomever wrote the first sentence for this story – The correct spelling is “hordes,” not “hoards.” Hoards – hides or stores away valued objects or money Hordes – large groups of people

    1. RV Staff

      Well dang, Diane. I should have caught it! (I do know the difference.) 😮 Shame on me! I’ll fix it right now. Thanks! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

  10. Doug & Linda

    We have been traveling for over 8 years now. Usually in the Sep-Oct time frame and the only waiting we had to do was stopping to let the Bison cross the road in Yellow Stone.

  11. Dwight A Jewell

    I think this is nothing new we had to make reservations to get into Denali in Alaska 20 years ago?

  12. Harry

    I understand completely Zion’s overcrowded problem/issue. One of my all-time favorite hikes is Angeles Landing. Now it has become a very dangerous, life threatening hike. Previous hikes hikers/tourist would wait at the top/bottom of one of the ‘chain assisted’ portions until a group completed their climb/decent. Two years ago the crowds were so impatient they were actually
    passing folks by reaching around grabbing the chain as they worked their way up/down. Talk about rude, how about UNSAFE!
    The shuttle system was needed when it was installed years ago. But, now it has become a bottle neck. I don’t see any alternative, but a reservation system.

  13. Jonathan Miller

    I understand the overcrowding, but it’s already nearly impossible to get a camping spot in the park unless you reserve it 6 months in advance on the first day they become available. If you have to do that just to enter the park that should solve the overcrowding as the parks will become inaccessible to most. It would be a sad development but at least it would preserve the parks for future generations.

    By the way, maybe I have different sensibilities because I live in a big city but I never noticed a serious overcrowding problem, and I’ve been to all the major parks, (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion etc).

  14. Ron

    I am 62 years old, and have never visited any of our national parks. Now I am retired, have the financial resources to travel, and own a motorhome. But after reading this and similar other recent articles about the disrespectful foreigners, overcrowding, long waits, lack of transportation, plant life being trampled and destroyed, and human waste being left in many places……I won’t be visiting anytime soon. It just does not sound like fun to me.

    1. Bob

      Then you will be missing some of the greatest natural wonders this country has to offer. Maybe give a few parks a try before condemning them.

      1. Matt Murdoch

        Just as I missed the “wonder” of Denali last year when I arrived at the main entrance and chose to bypass a visit upon seeing the hordes of visitors and and all the vehicles. Not my idea to enjoy great natural wonders like any other mackerel in a mackerel ball. I’ll take remote solitude, peace and quiet in a back country bundok over the National Amusement Parks any day.

    2. Onwego

      I’m.your age. I started visiting National Parks at age 2. Go to the right places at the right times, and you’ll experience none of what you wrote. And, just FYI, if it were only the foreigners who disrespected the Park’s rules and resources, things would be a lot better than they are. Most of the nonsense, sadly, is Made in America. Happy travels

    3. Leo Suarez

      Ron, I am also 62, retired and bought a Motorhome last year. I just came back from a 3 month trip and we visited over 12 National parks, including most of the big ones in Utah like Zion. We found the parks well kept, and busy with people however we did not have to wait hours for a shuttle bus, more like 5-10 minutes at most in any park we visited. Yes there are many foreigners visiting, who are mostly very respectful. The ones I struck up a conversation with were very appreciative and amazed at the national park resources we have in the US. To not visit these parks because of hearsay and mostly overblown comments would be a big mistake. Enjoy your retirement, the Motorhome, and our beautiful National parks.

  15. MountainDi

    I live in the Rocky Mountain National Park area. We have to do something. The crowding is unbelievable and then the anger kicks in when someone can’t get to where they want to go, and it’s just awful. No one obeys the rules anymore. “Rules are for others, and not me” seems to be the new motto in life. Dogs everywhere with people lying through their teeth about their dog being a service animal when they obviously aren’t. These are Americans by the way and not foreigners who tend to be more polite. I think reservations are a good idea in spite of reduced spontaneity. There is cause and effect going on. You abuse, you eventually lose.

  16. Pam Harsch

    I think this might cut down drastically on the National Parks Annual Pass. We have purchased one for the last several years. We live close enough to Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Zion to hop in the car on a whim and go visit, have a picnic lunch and take in the beauty. It would greatly change the spontaneity of our day trips. I am sorry to say I have to agree with the foreign tourist ideas. I have been to Yellowstone when everyone I passed was Asian. Its a shame but maybe limit foreign visitors to certain times of the year to. That way the pass holders and American visitors can avoid those days, and the foreign visitors would actually have the parks to themselves.

    1. Bill

      Wow….So, no one but “Americans” can visit? Where were your grandparents or their precursors from? If it’s ireland, or some other ethnic group the in years past faced discrimination, shame.

      1. Deb

        Americans first should enjoy THEIR park! Very unfair to Americans.. Get a grip. fyi..i am Native American.

        1. Eva Edith Johnston

          And YOU, above all other groups, should have first dibs…the rest of us, whose forebearers (far back, or more recently) are not Native American, need to develop a better sense of civility & eliminate the sense of entitlement. For goodness sake, people, KINDERGARTENERS learn the rules about standing in line, quietly waiting your turn, picking up your own trash (& help out by picking up others’ trash), etc.

  17. Scott

    I don’t understand the anti foreigner discussion, that’s not a solution, it’s not even the topic at hand…

    But like R. and others I do recognise the overcrowding problem. I wish I was smart enough to offer a solution but I can’t. Maybe entrance reservations as proposed in Zion are the answer? But I don’t like the idea of that.

  18. Barbara O'Brien

    We have visited many National Parks over the years. We too have and greatly enjoy the senior pass. If at all possible, we try to use any transport available in the park and leave our truck either at the campground or parked in one place. For example, in Yosemite there was a bus near our campground that we rode into the park. Once there, we rented bicycles to get around the park. Too many people means too many cars. Limiting the number of cars entering might help. Just a thought-
    Try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

    1. Jonathan Miller

      Yes, I also use the park transportation whenever possible. When I visited Zion I camped outside the park. Took the bus into the park and used the bus system in the park. I was there 5 years ago and I don’t remember an overcrowding situation. Maybe my definition of overcrowding is different. Are folks expecting to walk through the park and not see another soul? I don’t remember waiting in line for anything, which is my definition of overcrowding.

    2. Carol A Forrest

      Question. What fo you do with your pets? Leave them in the (for us) trailer. Yosemite would not let dogs on the shuttle buses the last time i was there. At the time we had a tent and vould not leave my fog unattended.

      1. Carol A Forrest

        Sorry. That should read, “leave our dog unattended”.

  19. JB

    I grew up in Wyoming…not far from Yellowstone and watched the park get more and more congested as years went by.I will never visit Yellowstone again…I suppose if I learned Mandarin I may be able to communicate..not gonna happen. As for other National Parks,I am a disabled Vietnam combat vet and have a lifetime pass to get in the National Parks,… everyone I have been to is over crowded. I recall as a kid we visited Yosemite and it was over crowded then…that was 60 years ago.I don’t know the solution anymore to this problem…higher fees? Foreign tourists seem to have a lot of spending money anymore…and many could care less about the mess they leave behind…try visiting White Sands in New Mexico… the bathrooms have been wrecked and are filthy. Looks like we should just remember the parks as they were 50 years ago.

    1. Fred Ridenour

      Thank you for your service and your sacrifice . I agree with the amount of rich foreniers and there bad habits. They little areas as nice parks. They do not care how they treat Our lands or how rude they are. They expect everyone else to clean up after them and raise there kids to expect it as well. I too will never go to a national park, or a popular visitor area.. Thanks again

  20. Tom Kneib

    I guess I will go out on a limb here. I know this will not be considered politically correct, but, limit entrance to national parks to American citizens only. It is our taxes that pay for and support these venues. Obviously, there is too much tourism traffic at these places already. We should be first in line for what we have paid for ourselves

    1. Cheryl

      Close to my thoughts but we do need the foreign tourist money to help with upkeep. Maybe a 30/70 ratio foreign to citizen would work. American citizens would have to show driver licenses to qualify. Just a thought.

      1. Laz

        I lived in Costa Rica for a few years. In thier parks they charge non residents 10 X more than residents to enter .
        Have to show a card.
        Doesn’t seem to hurt the visitor numbers.

  21. Roger

    Good. Something needs to be done. The all day traffic jams at Yellowstone are an environmental disgrace to that glorious place.

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