The National Park Service has announced its intention to implement a timed entry reservation system at the heavily visited Arches National Park in 2022.
“By implementing a temporary, timed-entry reservation system, our goal is to better spread visitation throughout the day to reduce traffic congestion and visitor crowding. We believe this will create a higher-quality experience while maximizing access for our visitors,” said Arches National Park Superintendent Patricia Trap. “Additionally, we will use data gathered from this pilot to adapt and improve this system throughout the season, as well as to inform our future responses going forward.”
The pilot will run from April 3 to October 3, 2022. Visitors can book reservations first-come, first-served on Recreation.gov beginning at 8 a.m. MST on January 3, 2022. The park will release reservations three months in advance in monthly blocks. On January 3, reservations will open for April 3 through April 30. On February 1, reservations will open for the month of May and any remaining reservations that have not been booked for April. Additional months will continue the same pattern according to the following schedule:
- April reservations (April 3–30) open January 3.
- 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 1–3) open July 1.
After booking a reservation, visitors will receive a Timed Entry Ticket. Timed entry tickets will be required to enter the park from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and will allow visitors to enter the park during a one-hour specified window of availability. After entering, visitors may stay in the park as long as they wish for the remainder of the day. Reservation holders may exit and re-enter the park on the same day with a correctly validated ticket.
During 2009 to 2019, visitation to Arches grew over 66%, from 996,312 to 1,659,702. This high level of visitor use creates congestion and crowding that can negatively impact public safety, visitor experiences, and park resources.
Arches regularly closes its gates during the busy season when the limited parking lots are full. Cars often wait for hours on the roadside for the gates to open. Visitors waiting get angry, often shouting at rangers after having their vacation day ruined. The new system should help alleviate the crowding and allow travelers the confidence to go to the park and be able to get in.
For those without early reservations, a limited number of additional reservations will be available for purchase at 6 p.m. MDT the day before entry through Recreation.gov. Reservations must be purchased online or by calling Recreation.gov before entering the park and will not be available at the park entrance.
Timed entry reservations will not be required for those with camping permits, backcountry permits, Fiery Furnace permits, special use permits, concessions contracts, or commercial use authorizations. All reservations are expected to sell out quickly, and visitors are encouraged to plan ahead.
This is one of the many changes that continue to hit our National Parks as the NPS grapples with recording breaking tourist numbers.