If you visited Yosemite last summer and plan to return again in summer 2023, there will be at least one important change—reservations will no longer be required to enter the park.
Yosemite first created a reservation system in 2020 during the height of the covid pandemic. The idea was initially to reduce crowding to keep the park safely open, but it soon came to be seen as a measure to relieve crowding pressure in general. In 2021, the system remained in place, and then in 2022, it was put in place again, this time because there were major infrastructure repair projects underway and the park wanted to reduce crowding.
it worked. From May 30 to September 30 of 2022, there were 507,923 visitors to the park, down 28% from 2019. Last year, no reservations were required.
But park officials have decided the system is no longer justified and again this summer it’s coming one, come y’all.
For the many who could not plan visits in the future and for those who simply felt entitled to enter the park whenever they wanted without having to reserve a spot, the reservation system was daunting. But for others who’d been visiting Yosemite for years, gritting their teeth and carrying the crowds, the reservation system was a much-needed respite from the sea of humanity—and their cars—that choked the park’s entrance and popular trails.
“We don’t want to see a return to the days of visitors being trapped in traffic lines for hours before hiking the crowded trails,” Mark Rose, Sierra Nevada program director for the National Parks Preservation Society, tells Curtis at the San Francisco Chronicle. Alexander. “This sudden change to pausing the reservation system for the summer sends mixed messages and will also create more uncertainty and confusion for visitors and nearby communities.”
Park officials are certainly no stranger to the thorny issue of overcrowding and likely view the past few years as a test run for what declining incomes might look like.
Yosemite has been grappling with crowding — even gridlock — for decades. We want to build on the lessons learned from the last three summers of managed access. 2/3
– Yosemite National Park (YosemiteNPS) November 15, 2022
Regardless of your perspective, if you’re planning a visit there this summer, take a few extra hours of travel time to navigate the park’s crowded entrances.
Top photo: Justin Hausman