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9 national parks requiring reservations in 2022

May 31, 2022
7 min read
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.


There’s no question that national park vacations continue to be extremely popular.

Around the country, parklands are still welcoming eager travelers seeking wide-open spaces and a change of scenery — whether that's mountains, forests, canyons, coastlines or other terrain.

However, this surge in popularity has led to some changes that make spur-of-the-moment trips a bit more difficult. In order to ensure that visitors get the best experience possible, many of the more popular parks now require guests to make advance reservations for their favorite park or trail. Even at parks where reservations aren’t strictly required, they are recommended as a way to avoid long waits for entry.

Requirements are changing quickly, so before you book that hotel or vacation rental near a national park make sure you check the park’s requirements and make plans as far in advance as possible so that your visit to one of the nation’s most beautiful outdoor spaces is a smooth one.

Why are national parks requiring reservations?

Advance reservations to enter the parks and to access popular routes and trails were introduced as a way to help with social distancing and overcrowding that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, as the popularity of national parks continues to skyrocket as Americans return to travel with fresh zeal, reservation requirements in many parks seem set to continue indefinitely.

Here are some of the popular national parks that will still require reservations in 2022.

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Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. (Photo by J. Scott Clark/The Points Guy)

Yosemite National Park

Anyone interested in visiting California's Yosemite National Park during peak times, from 6 a.m. and 4 p.m., will be required to make advance reservations through Sept. 30. These reservations are required even if you're just planning to drive through the park and not stop, although those with reservations for campgrounds or other lodging within the park won't have to make any additional reservations.

Those with wilderness permits (such as for backpacking, overnight climbing or other wilderness stays) or permits for hiking to Half Dome are also exempt from the peak times reservation rule.

Glacier National Park. (Photo by HaizhanZheng/Getty Images)

Glacier National Park

Through Sept. 11, Glacier National Park in Montana will require vehicle reservations to access Going-to-the-Sun Road at the West Entrance, St. Mary Entrance and the new Camas Entrance to the park. The ticketing system is intended to help manage traffic in the park during the busy summer season.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. (Photo by Mark Brodkin Photography/Getty Images)

Arches National Park

With the attraction of more than 2,000 natural red rock structures, Arches National Park in Utah has a timed-entry ticketing system in place until Oct. 3. Tickets go on sale three months in advance and may be purchased at Recreation.gov.

There are also a limited number of tickets available one day before entry, but these tickets usually sell out quickly.

Related: Explore Utah's national parks with TPG's guide to the 'Mighty Five'

The Watchman in Zion National Park. (Photo by Justin Reznick Photography/Getty Images)

Zion National Park

Though Zion National Park in Utah has discontinued the use of ticketed reservations for the park’s shuttle service, there is a pilot lottery scheme in place to obtain permits for the iconic Angels Landing hike.

The park also requires permits for activities such as canyoneering, hiking and camping, all in an effort to avoid overcrowding both for preservation reasons and to ensure a better experience for visitors.

Related: This hotel near Zion National Park may be the best SpringHill Suites on Earth

Shenandoah National Park. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Shenandoah National Park

If you’re planning to spend the night under the stars at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, you definitely want to plan ahead.

Securing space at one of the park’s campgrounds requires advance reservations and the system opens six months in advance. Weekends and holiday slots get taken up quickly so it’s recommended that you secure your place as soon as possible.

Through Nov. 30, a day-use ticket purchased in advance is required to hike in the Old Rag Mountain area. Tickets are released at 10 a.m., 30 days and again five days before the day of the hike (at Recreation.gov).

Related: The 20 national parks that every traveler should see at least once

Elk at play in Rocky Mountain National Park's lush meadows. (Photo by Melanie Haiken/The Points Guy)

Rocky Mountain National Park

In 2020, the 415-square-mile Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado introduced a temporary timed-entry system and that system is still in effect, at least until Oct. 10. Visitors can make reservations either for the Bear Lake Road Corridor of the park or for the rest of the park (excluding the Bear Lake Road Corridor).

The reservation requirement is in effect from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the corridor, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the rest of the park. You don’t need the permit if you already have a reservation for a service such as in-park camping, horseback riding or commercial tours.

Acadia National Park. (Photo by Dermot Conlan/Getty Images)

Acadia National Park

Though travelers don’t need to worry about timed-entry slots to enter Acadia National Park in Maine, through Oct. 22 they will need a timed reservation to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for inspiring coastal views. Watching the sunrise from the mountain is the stuff of legends. Vehicle reservations are available up to 90 days in advance, with the bulk released at 10 a.m. (ET) two days ahead of time.

Haleakala National Park. (Photo by Ed Freeman/Getty Images)

Haleakala National Park

Seeing the sun set over Maui’s highest peak in Haleakala National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To make sure you don’t miss out on this breathtaking spectacle, reserve your vehicle entrance pass as soon as possible, as reservations are required for every vehicle entering the park between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Reservations can be made online 60 days in advance, with a portion of reservations released 48 hours in advance. For those who just can’t get enough of the volcanic landscape, the park also has three historic wilderness cabins.

Related: TPG’s favorite national parks: A month-by-month guide

A black bear cub in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo by KenCanning/Getty Images)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Though you can enter the park whenever you like, reservations are now required for all campgrounds within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The system is open for reservations for most campgrounds up to a year in advance, with the exception of the frontcountry campgrounds and horse camps, which are only available up to six months in advance. Reservations and permits are also required for all overnight stays in the backcountry.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

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  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

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  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees