You no longer need reservations to visit Yosemite

If you’ve been to Yosemite the past few summers and you’re planning to go again in the summer of 2023, there will be at least one major change – reservations will no longer be required to enter the park.

Yosemite first introduced a reservation system in 2020 during the height of the Covid pandemic. The idea was initially to limit congestion to keep the park open safely, but then it was quickly seen as a measure to alleviate congestion pressure in general. In 2021, the system remained in place, and in 2022 it was reintroduced, this time because major infrastructure repair projects were underway and the park wanted to limit congestion.

It worked. From May 30 to September 30, 2022, there were 507,923 visitors to the park, down 28% from 2019, the last year reservations were not required.

But park officials have decided the system is no longer justified, and again this summer it will be come one, come all.

For many who were unable to plan visits in the future, and for those who simply felt it was a right to enter the park whenever they wanted without having to reserve a space, the reservation system was cumbersome . But for others who have been visiting Yosemite for years, gritting their teeth and enduring the crowds, the reservation system was a much-needed respite from the sea of ​​people—and their cars—choking the park’s entrance and popular trailheads.

“We don’t want to see a return to the days of visitors stuck in hour-long lines of traffic before walking crowded trails,” Mark Rose, Sierra Nevada program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Kurtis Alexander. “This sudden change to pause the reservation system for a summer sends mixed messages and will also create more uncertainty and confusion for visitors and nearby communities.”

Park officials are certainly no strangers to the difficult problem of overcrowding and likely see the past few years as a successful test of what reduced access might look like.

Whatever your view, if you’re planning a visit there this summer, you’ll need to factor in a few extra hours of travel time to navigate the crowded park entrances.

top photo: Justin Housman

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