Will we need a national park permit in 2023?
Although not all national parks will require a permit in 2023, you will notice some differences in access to many of them.
If you visited a national park in 2022, you may have noticed the crowds, lines at the entrance, and crowds on the trails. The numbers are not expected to improve this year, and several parks are continuing programs that will help disperse the crowds and provide a more enjoyable experience for all.
Beginning in January 2023, some parks will require a temporary access permit to enter a portion of the park. Other parks are beginning to require reservations and permits to access some of their more popular areas.
Why do national parks require reservations?
As our beautiful national parks continue to grow in popularity, parks are responding with better and different methods to manage the influx of visitors. After the COVID epidemic in 2020, many parks required advance reservations to handle the crowds created by the pandemic. Some of these restrictions were maintained or modified to better accommodate the changing times.
More and more parks require advance reservations to enter the most popular areas of the park – or even the park itself.
Where are permits required for national parks?
Temporary permits are required to access a portion of these parks during peak hours. These include Arches National Park, Glacier, Haleakala in Hawaii, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
At other parks, reservations and permits may be required for access to some popular areas such as hiking trails, scenic roads, and activities.
Arches National Park
Two popular national parks tested timed admission programs in 2022 and will continue these programs in 2023. At Arches National Park in Utah, visitors must purchase tickets or annual passes in advance if they wish to enter the park between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. This rule begins April 1 and runs through Oct. 31.
Reservations are sold on the recreation.gov website on a first-come, first-served basis and are sold in blocks three months in advance. Any leftover reservations are sold when bookings for the next month begin. Bookings for July will open in April.
Once you book your reservation, you will receive a ticket for a one-hour time slot. You can enter the park between 7am and 4pm and stay the rest of the day. You can leave the park and come back if you have a validated ticket.
You can purchase tickets the day before your visit starting at 6:00 pm. Tickets are not available at park entrances, but must be purchased online or by phone. If you have a camping permit, backcountry permit, special use permit, concession agreement or commercial use permit, you do not need a timed admission ticket.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado also requires a reservation for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which includes the rest of the park (5 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The other permit is for the rest of the park, except for the Bear Lake Road Corridor (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
Admission windows are for two hours. They go on sale May 1 and are valid for reservations made May 26 through June 30. After that, reservations are sold one month in advance, starting on the first day of the previous month.
About 40 percent of reservations will be available at 5 p.m. the day before. They will sell out quickly, so it is best to plan ahead. This permit system runs through Oct. 22 and spreads use throughout the park and throughout the day to account for parking and trails.
Acadia National Park
Acadia does not require reservations to visit the park, but does require a permit to drive the Cadillac Summit Road (for cars only) from mid-May to mid-October.
Yellowstone National Park
Reservations are not required to enter Yellowstone. This changed in July 2022 when this regulation was temporarily put into effect due to flood damage in the park.
Yosemite National Park
During the summer of 2023, a day use permit will generally not be required to enter the park. There are a few instances when a reservation will be required for day use. Check the website for more information on these select days.
Reservations are still required for the Half Dome hike. All backpackers wishing to stay overnight must obtain a wilderness permit, which is issued by lottery.
Zion National Park
Reservations are not required for admission to Zion National Park. However, visitors cannot drive private vehicles on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive when the shuttle is in operation. There are no current plans to require timed shuttle tickets.
Permits are required for the dangerous Angel’s Landing hike and are issued by lottery. This applies only to the chain section. You do not need a permit for Scout’s Lookout or the West Rim Trail.
These are just a few of the national parks that are changing their entrance requirements for 2023. Find out about other permits and reservation changes at national parks here.
Fee-free days in 2023
There are a handful of days when you can visit national parks for free. Free days also include admission to all 400+ sites managed by the National Park Service.
Get out your calendar and mark these dates to see some of the most spectacular views in the country.
- January 16: Martin Luther King Day
- April 22: The first day of National Park Week
- August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.
- September 23: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
Did you know that fourth graders and their families can go to any national park for free for a year? Learn more about the Every Kid Outdoors Program.
National Parks Fees
If you can’t go to a park on your days off, entrance fees can range from $20 to $35. You may want to consider a National Parks Pass. For $80, you can purchase an annual pass to America The Beautiful. If you visit three or more parks during the year, it’s worth the purchase.
Here are some other ways to save.
- Annual Pass: $80
- Senior lifetime pass, age 62+: $80
- Senior annual pass, age 62+: $20
- Disabled access pass: free for life, with proof of permanent disability only.
- Volunteer card: free annual pass, requires more than 250 hours of volunteer work in public areas
- Military pass: Free annual pass for military and dependents.
You can order your pass online or buy it at a national park. If you buy it online, you should know that shipping may take some time.
Plan your trip in advance
As RVers, the national parks are always on our list of places we’re dying to visit. It’s no fun braving the crowds or trying to find a parking spot on a particular trail, but the National Park Service does its best to make sure everyone can see the beautiful places that make up these protected areas.
It’s best to plan ahead. Then you can visit places like Cadillac Mountain at sunrise or the rock formations at Arches more easily and with less stress, maybe even with a few less people sharing the view.
For all your camping and trip planning needs, RV LIFE Campgrounds and RV LIFE Trip Wizard are the right choice. Campground Reviews is a trusted source for reviews of campgrounds and RV sites provided by camping and RV enthusiasts like you. With its companion RV LIFE app, RV Trip Wizard will take you to your camping destinations by creating RV-friendly itineraries specifically for your RV and travel preferences.
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