In mid-January, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State announced it would be the 11th National Park in the United States to require visitors to obtain a permit to access public land.
This is a direct result of the most popular parks needing more infrastructure, mainly parking, to handle the influx of visitors during the peak hours of the day. Many attribute this growth to social media and post-COVID nature allure, with several locations seeing visitation growth of over 25% over the last decade.
“In recent years, it’s been too common for visitors to sit in idling cars for a couple of hours at the entrance stations and then make laps through the parking lots hoping for an empty parking space,” says Mt. Rainier National Park Superintendent Greg Dudgeon.
Controlling the number of people in a park can make visiting much more enjoyable. With less time stressing about parking and more time in nature, it’s a win-win for everyone.
What Happens if You Don’t Get a Permit?
Luckily, there are ways around the timed entry policies — but not for hiking permits. If you enter any of the destinations before 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., as specified for each individual park, or after 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., you can access the entirety of the area.
Furthermore, you do not need a timed entry permit if you hold a campsite, hotel, or other applicable reservation.
The main reason behind timed entry permits is to control the number of visitors during peak hours when trails and parking lots get filled up.
National Parks That Require Timed Entry Permits for the Entire Park
Note: Make sure you have your America the Beautiful Pass before visiting.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is chaotic because there’s one way in and one way out. Due to this, all the popular areas get crowded extremely quickly and become a madhouse.
If you plan to visit Arches National Park between April 1 and Oct. 31, 2024, you are required to have a timed entry permit. If you enter the park before 7 a.m. and after 4 p.m., you can adventure as you please.
Glacier National Park
The rules around Glacier are slightly confusing because different parts of the park become snow-free at different times.
From May 24 through Sept. 8, all vehicles require reservations for the West side of Going to the Sun Road and the North Fork. This applies to all entrances between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Then, on the east side of Glacier National Park, you need a permit to visit the Many Glacier area from July 1 through Sept. 6. The same time applies.
A change from 2023 is that you do not need a permit to drive the Going to the Sun Road up to Logan Pass from St. Mary’s (east side) or to visit the Two Medicine area.
Mt. Rainier National Park
Up in Washington, Mount Rainier is the latest park to adopt entry regulations to stem the flow of tourists. The park is now regulating who enters the park from the Paradise Cooridor (south side) and the Sunrise Cooridor (northeast side).
- Paradise Corridor: May 24 – Sept. 2
- Sunrise Corridor: July 3 – Sept. 2
These requirements are active between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thankfully, Washington’s long summer days (daylight after 9 p.m.) will allow people who enter the park in the afternoon to enjoy their trip still.
Visitors should note that the northwest side of the park — Carbon River and Mowich Lake — do not require any permits during the summer months. This area offers terrific hiking opportunities with far fewer crowds.
Rocky Mountain National Park
In Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), they have a two-pronged approach due to the popularity of one particular area.
Visitors can get permits for the Bear Lake Road Corridor (and the rest of the park). This begins on May 24 and will go through Oct. 20. The reservation is in effect from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For those who wish to visit the rest of this stunning national park, you can apply for non-Bear Lake Road access, too. Those reservations go from May 24 until Oct. 15. The reservation is in effect from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you want to visit RMNP, park passes become available on the first day of the month.
Yosemite National Park
This year, entrance reservations in Yosemite will be complicated, so bear with me here.
- No reservation is needed to visit Yosemite from the start of the year until Feb. 9th. Then, from Feb. 10–25, reservations are required 24 hours per day on Saturday, Sunday, and President’s Day, Feb. 19.
- This random time slot in the middle of winter is due to Yosemite’s Firefall, which attracts photographers worldwide.
- Then, the park opens back up from Feb. 26 through April 12.
- From April 13 to June 30, reservations are required from 5 a.m. – 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
- For the summer months — July 1 through Aug. 16 — a timed entry permit is required every day of the week between 5 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Finally, From Aug. 17 through Oct. 27, a reservation is only required on the weekends and holidays between 5 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Also of note, if you want to hike Half Dome, permits are required. You can get those in advance or by daily lottery two days before you want to hike.
Help yourself and print this out — almost no one remembers all the details.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The policies for Great Smoky Mountain are more relaxed than the others in this list.
The park does not limit who drives through, but they instruct people to buy a parking tag if they plan to park anywhere in the National Park for longer than 15 minutes.
Daily tags cost $5, weekly is $15, and annual is $40.
You can get these in person and online, which shows the lack of urgency.
National Parks Requiring Reservations for Popular Hikes
The following parks are open 24/7 with no permits but have a specific hike or location where you need a permit.
Redwood National Park – Fern Canyon
You must obtain a free permit from Redwood National Park to hike the Fern Canyon Loop Trail. This applies to all hikers from May 15 through Oct. 15.
Zion National Park – Angels Landing
Angels Landing isn’t just one of the most popular hikes in Zion National Park. It is one of the most popular hikes in America. Due to this and the danger of having so many people on a somewhat dangerous hike, a permitting process is in place to protect hikers and the environment.
Shenandoah National Park – Old Rag Mountain
Between March 1 and Nov. 30, anyone who wishes to hike to the top of Old Rag Mountain and soak in the stunning views needs a day-use permit. Eight hundred tickets will be issued daily, with 400 available 30 days in advance and the other 400 released five days in advance.
Haleakala National Park – Sunrise
Do you want to watch the sunrise from the top of the Haleakala volcano? If so, you need to get a permit year-round. This only applies to those entering the park between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. Anyone wishing to visit the park can do so outside of those hours.
Acadia National Park – Cadillac Mountain Summit
One of the most popular spots in Acadia, Cadillac Mountain, sees the most visitors. Due to this, they’ve now limited who can drive up to the summit. This permit is required from May 22 through Oct. 27.
How Does One Get a Permit?
All permits can be reserved online at Recreation.gov for a small application fee. You cannot get one at the entrance booth of the national parks. To learn more, look up the policies of the individual destination that you wish to visit.
This post originally appeared on MediaDecision.com and was syndicated by Explore With Alec.