Which National Parks Require Reservations in 2023?

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Are you considering taking a trip to one of our nation’s spectacular national parks in 2023? If so, you may want to do some research into what parks will require reservations for this coming year. 

2022 was another increasingly busy year throughout the National Park System. Some parks in 2022 had a pilot reservation system which they plan on keeping throughout 2023. Other parks have opted for a timed entry or ticket system to help assist crowd management and to make the visitation experience much more enjoyable.                   

Most notably, Yosemite has had a temporary ticketed entry system in 2022, which will not continue into the 2023 season. However, other popular national parks such as Arches, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain have decided to renew their reservation system for 2023. 

Various other national parks used different means to limit visitation numbers during busy times and in heavily visited areas. 2023 will see other national parks require a reservation system of some type. We’ll discuss those further along in this article. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the following topics:

  • The advantages of having a national parks pass.
  • The select few days in 2023 that Yosemite will require reservations. 
  • Which national parks will require reservation systems in 2023.

Do I still need reservations if I have a national park pass?

Yes. Unfortunately, even if you have a national parks pass, you still need to make a reservation to a park if it requires one. You will also still have to pay the standard entrance fee as well. 

However, if you purchase an America the Beautiful Annual Pass, it covers the cost of the standard entrance fee. But again, it doesn’t cover the reservation if you are visiting a park that has implemented a reservation system. 

The America the Beautiful Pass is a wise investment, though. For one year, it covers not only the entrance fees to all national parks but also access to all of America’s public lands. This includes national parks and forests, land managed under the Bureau of Land Management, and numerous other federal recreation locations. 

national park annual pass
The 2022 America the Beautiful-The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass. NPS/Mark Gruenhaupt

Can you get into Yosemite without a reservation?

For most of 2023, reservations to Yosemite National Park will not be required. Suppose you’re planning on hitting the park this summer. In that case, you don’t need to worry about getting a reservation as it will not be necessary then. 

However, a small number of days in 2023 will require reservations. During mid to late February, Horsetail Falls, located in the park, glows a vibrant orange color when it’s backlit by sunset. This makes it appear as though it’s on fire. This rare and spectacular lighting effect only occurs in evenings with a clear sky when the waterfall is flowing, and the sun is at the correct angle.

Again, this only occurs in mid to late February. So when this event happens, large crowds naturally flock to the park to catch a glimpse of this incredible act of nature. Because of these large crowds, you’ll have to get reservations for specific days in February. The days that require reservations are as follows:

  • February 10–12, 2023
  • February 17–19, 2023
  • February 24–26, 2023 
yosemite national park horsetail falls
Horsetail Falls appears on fire in Yosemite National Park

Parks that will require reservations in 2023

Let’s take a minute to discuss what parks in 2023 will require advance reservations. We’ll also discuss reservations that are needed when visiting a park’s particular hiking trail, scenic roads, and other specific areas located in the parks. 

Arches National Park

Arches National Park has soared in popularity within the past decade. From 2011 to 2021, visitation to Arches increased by 73 percent, from a little over one million to over 1.8 million visitors yearly. This massive surge in popularity has forced the park to make significant changes in implementing reservation systems and crowd management. 

In 2022, Arches implemented a timed ticket entry system. This system helped pace visitation into the park, lessened congestion, and improved visitor experiences. The same system will be used in 2023. When visiting Arches in 2023, you must have an advance registration from April 1 to October 31. These reservations are available on Recreation.gov three months in advance and are in monthly blocks. Remember, these reservations are first-come-first-served. The cost of a timed entry reservation to Arches is $2.

  • April reservations (April 1–30) open January 10
  • May reservations (May 1–31) open February 1
  • June reservations (June 1–30) open March 1
  • July reservations (July 1–31) open April 1
  • August reservations (August 1–31) open May 1
  • September reservations (September 1–30) open June 1
  • October reservations (October 1–31) open July 1

Note: If you have already reserved an activity in the park, such as a camping booking, special use permit, backcountry access, or Fiery Furnace permit, you don’t need a timed entry reservation into the park. 

A magnificent sunset lies behind the famous Delicate Arch located in Arches National Park, Utah
A magnificent sunset lies behind the famous Delicate Arch located in Arches National Park, Utah

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park also implemented a timed entry reservation system in 2022 and will continue it into 2023. This timed entry system has also helped manage crowds and congestion and improved visitors’ experiences. A change to the system in 2023 will include making 40 percent of all reservations available the previous day at 5 pm through Recreation.gov. Plan ahead when buying these reservations, as they will sell out quickly. 

You can purchase two types of timed entry reservations for Rocky Mountain National Park in 2023.

  • Bear Lake Road Corridor: Includes the entire corridor plus access to the rest of the park from 5 am to 6 pm
  • Rest of the park: All Rocky Mountain National Park locations, except for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, from 9 am to 2 pm

If you have a timed entry permit into the park, you must enter during the two-hour time window period. There isn’t a set departure time, so you may enjoy the park for as long as you prefer that day. 

The 2022 Rocky Mountain National Park timed entry reservation period lasts from May 26 to October 22, 2023. You can reserve an entry permit starting on May 1, 2023, and it will be put out in groups. The cost of a reservation at the park is $2.

Rocky Mountain National Park scenic Trail Ridge Road reaches an astonishing 12,000 feet in elevation
Rocky Mountain National Park’s scenic Trail Ridge Road reaches an astonishing 12,000 feet in elevation. NPS photo

Glacier National Park

Virtually all of Glacier National Park will have a vehicle reservation system for popular scenic drives and areas in the park in 2023. You will need to use a vehicle reservation to be granted access to the park’s heavily visited Going-to-the-Sun Road through the West Entrance and the North Fork area of the park. This will start May 26 through September 10, 2023, from 6 am to 3 pm.

Furthermore, vehicle reservations will also be mandatory for Two Medicine and Many Glacier valleys and St. Mary Entrance to Going-to-the-Sun Road on the eastern half of the park beginning July 1 through September 10, 2023, from 6 am to 3 pm. These vehicle reservations will be available on Recreation.gov and can be purchased through two different types of booking windows. 

A segment of reservations will be available exactly four months in advance and will use a block-release system. The first block of advanced reservations can be purchased on Recreation.gov at 8 am Mountain Time starting February 1, 2023. This segment of reservations will be for access to Going-to-the-Sun Road or the North Fork for May 26 through June 30.

The next set of availability for reservations will come out on March 1, 2023, for the dates of July 1 through July 31. This includes the reservation areas for Going-to-the-Sun Road, North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier.

Then, on April 1, 2023, reservations for all areas will be obtainable for the dates of August 1 through August 31. On May 1, 2023, reservations will be accessible for all areas for the dates of September 1 through September 10.

A segment of reservations for all sections of the park will be obtainable on a rolling basis starting at 8 am 24 hours in advance. The cost of these vehicle reservations is $2.

Driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park
Driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park provides you with jaw-dropping views of mountains and valleys that have been sculpted by glaciers. NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park’s main attraction, the Haleakalā volcano, is a commanding presence on the eastern section of Maui, Hawaii. It is the tallest point on the island. The park offers a variety of activities for visitors, including superb hiking trails and lookouts, unique and otherworldly landscapes, and arguably the best sunrise viewings. 

Viewing the sunrise is the most popular activity within the park. It’s so popular that the park requires you to obtain a reservation to view the sunset from 3 am to 7 am. This reservation helps make the sunrise viewing experience far more enjoyable and safeguards natural and cultural resources.

Your sunrise ticket to the park may be bought on Recreation.gov for only $1 per vehicle. That 4-hour time frame is the only time a reservation is needed to enter the park. You are free to enter the park at any other time after then without any reservations. Sunsets do not require any reservations, which is a huge plus. 

sunrise at Haleakalā National Park
Getting up early to view a sunrise at Haleakalā National Park is certainly worth it. Visitors are rewarded with a spectacular plethora of colors stretching over the vast horizon. NPS/Asa Ellison

Zion National Park

This wildly popular national park requires a permit lottery program, not for the entire park, but more so for one particular attraction: Angel’s Landing Trail

After substantial public input and feedback, a permit lottery system was installed for those wishing to hike this incredible trail. This permit system started on April 1, 2022, and has successfully managed the trail’s congestion issues. 

The permit lottery system will continue into 2023. Everyone who plans on hiking Angel’s Landing from March 1 through December 31, 2023, will need a permit. You can go to Recreation.gov to apply for a hiking permit. There is a $6 application fee, and it’s $3 per person if you are lucky enough to receive a permit through the lottery system. 

Hikers traverse the steep, rocky terrain on Angel's Landing in Zion National Park in Utah
Hikers traverse the steep, rocky terrain on Angel’s Landing. The hike is considered strenuous and is not recommended if you have a fear of heights. The hike has an elevation gain of over 1,600 feet from start to finish. NPS photo

Final Thoughts:

To sum it up, most parks in 2023 that require reservations are top-rated, heavily visited ones. These parks have made these reservations to protect the park’s resources and make the experience far more enjoyable for all visitors. 

These reservation systems have been successful thus far and look like they’re here to stay. So if you’re planning on visiting any of these parks in 2023, plan accordingly. You don’t want to lose your spot to check out one of these extraordinary national parks, so act now! 

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

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Happy Travels! Sandy