You No Longer Need a Reservation to Visit Yosemite National Park
Spontaneous travelers can now add Yosemite National Park back to their list of destination options. While reservations to enter the park had been required since May 21, 2021, they're no longer necessary as of Oct. 1. That means, visitors can now drive right up and pay the entrance fee of $35 per car, which is valid for seven days.
Still, the park warns visitors to be prepared for wait times. "While we welcome you to Yosemite, expect traffic congestion," the National Park Service (NPS) site reads. "Be prepared for delays of one to two hours at park entrances. Arrive before mid-morning, especially on weekends."
Parks officials reported that since eliminating the system, conditions have been "busy but manageable," Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman told The Fresno Bee.
The reservation system had been put into place ahead of the busy summer season in order to "allow the park to manage visitation levels to reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19," the NPS said, clarifying that it limited the number of vehicles, but not the number of people. Measures to reduce the capacity were also implemented last year from June 11 through Oct. 31, and earlier this year from Feb. 8 through 28.
But business isn't quite back to usual at Yosemite. While the NPS site says "no major areas of the park are closed," the Lower Yosemite Fall boulders, Crane Flat Helibase, and the Bridalveil Fall area are all currently not open. Hetch Hetchy Road is also only open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when the parking lot isn't full.
Plus, shuttle services and bus tours aren't operating this year because of a "lack of staffing," the NPS site notes, further explaining that "shared housing for seasonal employees in Yosemite is significantly lower than usual this year in order to keep employees safe."
Additionally, Yosemite warns that Tioga Road will be closed on Thursday, Oct. 7, because of an incoming storm, and that there may still be some smoky conditions from wildfires, which could impact those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Yosemite also urges visitors to take the proper pandemic precautions. "While reservations are no longer required to drive into the park, we continue to urge you to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases," the NPS site says, reminding visitors to keep their distance from other groups, wear masks when in close radius to others, wash hands often, not touch their faces, and stay home if they're feeling sick.
The day the entrance reservation system was lifted happened to be Yosemite's 131st birthday, as well as the dedication of the Chinese Laundry Building honoring the contributions of Chinese immigrants to the development of the park.