Do You Need National Park Permits In 2023?
While not all national parks will require permits in 2023, you will notice some differences in how visitors are going to access many of these parks.
If you went to a national park in 2022, you might have noticed a lot of people, entry lines, and crowds on the trails. Numbers are not expected to improve this year, and several parks are continuing programs that will help disperse crowds and help everyone to have a more enjoyable experience.
As of January 2023, certain parks are requiring timed entry permits to access any part of the park. Other parks are beginning to require reservations and permits to access some of their more popular areas.
Why are national parks requiring reservations?
As our beautiful national parks explode in popularity, parks are responding with better and different ways to handle the crowds. Following COVID in 2020, many parks were requiring advanced reservations to handle crowds due to the pandemic. Some of those restrictions have remained in place or changed to better suit changing times.
An increasing number of parks are requiring advanced reservations to enter the most popular sections of the park–or even the park itself.
Where are national park permits required?
Timed-entry permits will be required to access any part of these parks during peak hours. Those include Arches National Park, Glacier, Haleakala in Hawaii, and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Other parks may require reservations and permits to access some popular areas such as trailheads, scenic roads, and activities.
Arches National Park
Two popular national parks tested timed entry programs in 2022 and will continue those programs in 2023. Arches National Park in Utah will allow visitors to buy entrance tickets or annual passes in advance if they want to enter between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. This requirement will begin on April 1 and extend to October 31.
Reservations are sold on a first-come, first-served basis on the recreation.gov website and are sold three months in advance in blocks. Any leftover reservations will be sold when bookings for the next month begin. Bookings for July will be open in April.
Once you book your reservation, you will get a timed entry ticket for a one-hour window. Enter the park between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. and then stay for the rest of the day. You can leave the park and come back if you have a validated ticket.
You can get tickets at 6 p.m. the day before your visit. Tickets will not be available at park entrances but must be bought online or on the phone. If you have a camping permit, backcountry permit, special use permit, concessions contract, or commercial use authorization, you will not need a timed ticket.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado will also require reservations for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which also includes the rest of the park (5 a.m. to 6 p.m.) The other permit is for the rest of the park, excluding Bear Lake Road Corridor (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
The entry windows are for two hours. These will go on sale May 1 and will apply to reservations from May 26-June 30. After that, reservations will be sold one month in advance starting on the first day of the previous month.
Some 40 percent of reservations will be available the day before at 5 p.m. They will run out quickly, so it is best to plan ahead. This permit system will run through October 22 and will spread use throughout the park and throughout the day to allow for parking and trailheads.
Acadia National Park
Acadia does not require reservations to visit the park, but it does require a permit to drive Cadillac Summit Road (cars only) from mid-May through mid-October.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone does not require reservations to enter. This has changed as of July 2022 when it was temporarily put in place due to flood damage within the park.
Yosemite National Park
In general, day-use permits will not be required to enter the park in the summer of 2023. There are a few instances where day-use reservations will be required. Check the website for more information on these select days.
Reservations are still required for the Half Dome Hike. All overnight backpackers must obtain a wilderness permit, issued by lottery.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park does not require a reservation to enter. However, visitors are not able to drive private vehicles on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive when the shuttle is operating. There are no plans currently to require timed shuttle tickets.
Permits, by lottery, will be required for the dangerous Angel’s Landing hike. This is for the chains section only. You do not need a permit to visit Scout’s Lookout or the West Rim Trail.
These are just a few of the national parks that are changing entrance requirements for 2023. Check here for other national park permits and reservation changes.
Fee free days in 2023
There are a handful of days that you can visit the national parks for free. Free days also include admission to all the 400-plus sites that the National Park Service manages.
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 fourth graders and their families can get into all national parks free for a year? Learn more about the Every Kid Outdoors Program.
National park fees
If you can’t get to a park on those free days, entrance fees can range from $20-$35. You might want to consider a National Parks Pass. For $80, you can purchase an annual America The Beautiful pass. When you visit three or more parks during the year, this will be worth it.
Here are some other ways to save.
- Annual pass: $80
- Lifetime senior pass, age 62+: $80
- Annual senior pass, age 62+: $20
- Access pass for the disabled: Free lifetime, must have documentation of permanent disability
- Volunteer pass: Free one-year pass, must have 250-plus hours of volunteer service in public lands
- Military pass: Free one-year pass for military and dependents
You can order your pass online or you can purchase it at a national park site. If you purchase online, know that it could take some time for shipping.
Plan your trip ahead of time
As RVers, national parks are always on our bucket list of places to visit. It’s not fun to brave the crowds or try to find a parking place at a particular trailhead, but the National Park Service is doing its best to ensure everyone can see the beautiful sites that make up these preserved lands.
Do your best to plan ahead. Then seeing places such as Cadillac Mountain at sunrise, or rock formations at Arches, can be made easier, less stressful, and maybe with just a few less people sharing the view.
For all of your camping and trip planning needs, look no further than RV LIFE Campgrounds and RV LIFE Trip Wizard. Campground Reviews is a trusted source of campground and RV park reviews offered by camping and RV enthusiasts just like you. With its accompanying RV LIFE App, RV Trip Wizard gets you to your camping destinations utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to your RV and travel preferences.