National Park reservations will continue for three of its most popular parks in 2024. But what does that mean for RVers? Well, more advanced planning for sure, but that’s not all. As part of episode 298 of the RV Miles Podcast, we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you navigate National Park timed entries for 2024.
What Parks Require Reservations?
As of 2/12/23, these are the parks that have confirmed some form of timed entry or park reservation will be needed during peak season. Please see the park’s website for a list of what sections of the park require reservations and during what time of year.
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Arches National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Mount Rainer National Park
- Zion National Park
- Acadia National Park
- Shenandoah National Park
- Haleakala National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tips for Navigating the National Park Reservation System:
Where Do I Get the Release Dates and Time of Reservations Information?
All parks publish the release dates and times of reservations on their websites. For example, if you want to know what day and time you need to be available to book a timed entry for Rocky Mountain National Park, you’d go directly to Rocky Mountain National Park’s website to get that info. There is no set day on when this info will be released, so check back often so you don’t miss the reservation window.
Reservations are Available Only at Recreation.gov:
You need to set up an account through Recreation.gov to book any timed entry or reservations in a National Park. To save time, make sure you set this account up BEFORE your reservation booking day. No other sites are selling these tickets, so if you see one, it’s a scam.
Try to Get Your Reservations the Minute They are Available:
It may not seem enjoyable getting up at 5 or 6 am to book timed entry tickets, but if you want to ensure you will be able to get into the park on the day you are visiting, it’s a must.
On the day of, you’ll want to log in at least 15 minutes before the start time and have all dates you are interested in listed in order of importance. Make sure you have the time zone figured out and be squared away. Prepping as much as you can is key. There will be thousands of people trying to grab tickets at the same time, and we have heard stories of the site crashing in the past due to traffic.
I was Logged In and Ready and I Still Didn’t Get a Reservation. Now What?
If you don’t get a timed entry ticket when the reservation window opens, there’s still hope. Parks with timed entry will hold back a limited number of reservations and release them a few days before the entry date. If you’re unable to snag one of the reservations released a few days before your trip, you can try for a day of entry.
You can enter a park before or after that day’s timed entry window. If you decide to go into the park outside the timed entry window, know that lots of people are also doing this. If ticketed entry starts at 6 AM, you want to arrive by 4:30 or 5:00 AM. We don’t recommend showing up at Arches National Park at 5:50 AM thinking you’ll make it through the gate because there will be others waiting to get in. Once timed entry starts those of you in line with no reservation will not be allowed in.
Other Ways to Enjoy a National Park Without Having Reservations
Afternoons are great in National Parks, particularly in the summer when the sun goes down late. We often come into a park during the dinner hour as most people are heading home for the day. We enjoy dinner at one of the many picnic sites and then explore the park. We’ve been to places like Yellowstone and felt like we were the only ones in the park. Late afternoon is our favorite time to be in a park.
If you have a campground reservation, you don’t need a timed entry ticket. If you are going to a first-come, first-served campground, like Glacier’s North Fork. The Ranger Station at the gate will issue any available sites upon your arrival. If there is an available site, park staff will issue the site to you.
GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! Did you know there are over 420 National Park Service Sites? Not to mention, State Parks, National Forests, and more. These parks are putting reservation systems in because they are very busy. They will still be very busy with the reservations and parking can still be a challenge. Consider exploring another location or look at visiting these parks during shoulder season. We are big fans of visiting a park like Zion in April or October.
Whether you have a reservation or you utilize the day-of options, the one thing you will need to bring is your patience. The parks are busy. Having a good attitude will ensure you have the very best time exploring these tremendous natural wonders.