Will You Need A Timed Entry Reservation Pass To Enter National Parks?
Over the past year, a lot of what we took to be normal changed. Things that we may have taken for granted – like easily accessible national parks and RV parks – were closed or deeply restricted.
Luckily, we are now seeing campgrounds, RV sites, and national parks begin to open up yet again for all of us to enjoy. These amenities are not resistant to change and have been affected by the pandemic restrictions just like the rest of us.
In light of recent events, there is talk that in the near future RVers will need a timed entry reservation to enter national parks. This might make a big change for some campers. A last-minute trip may no longer be possible.
Let’s take a look at what a timed entry pass is. We will also look at if most national parks require them.
What is a Timed Entry Pass?
Timed entry passes are time slots you can arrive in to meet your reservation – in this case, at the national parks. These time zones provide a way to spread out the flow of incoming traffic.
A timed entry pass would mean that on your ticket you are designated a time period of when you are allowed to check-in. This ticket only works during your time period. This means if you come too early or too late you won’t be allowed to enter.
After the recent pandemic and activities starting to now open back up, many businesses are integrating protocols to allocate each visitor with an arrival time. This helps to avoid clustering in too large of a group. Timed entry passes are an efficient way to make sure the flow of traffic is steady throughout the day. It also offers organization to the employees of the parks.
Have National Parks done this before?
Campers have never before had restrictions on windows of when they could arrive at the national parks.
RVing is commonly a free-flowing activity and everyone tends to approach it differently. Some of us arrive early in the day to watch the sunrise on that epic hike. Some of us sleep in and arrive as we please.
Are national parks planning on doing it?
Things are now changing to force the process to be smoother and more ordered.
Some parks have already integrated timed entry reservation passes for their campers, RVers, and anybody else welcomed in. With these parks trying it out, others may integrate it after seeing how the results turn out.
With restrictions on capacity, allowing everybody to check-in at once and congregate around a reservation area was putting too much stress on the parks to ensure that they follow health guidelines. If they don’t follow these guidelines they face severe consequences that could result in even more backtracking and possibly park closures.
For the summer 2021 reservations, some national parks have already begun giving out reservation passes explaining to patrons that the arrival time is firm. This means that as you book a reservation you must also select a time period in which you plan on arriving and leaving the park.
So far, national parks are reporting that it has helped create a flowing influx of visitors and lessened the number of congregations at the check-in areas.
How will timed entry change the National Park experience for you?
You may be wondering if these timed entries are going to have an effect on your RVing life or how you visit national parks. The truth is, it might.
If the majority of national parks make it necessary for everybody to have a timed reservation to enter and exit the park, it will be a small effort added on while you’re booking your reservation. While the process is simple, you may find yourself refreshing the reservation page repeatedly trying to get a time slot.
Timed entry will cause you to plan a little more ahead when it comes to arriving at the national parks – “Plan Like a Park Ranger“. Since you have to arrive within a designated window, you’ll have to make sure to pad your travel time and arrive on time.
In all, it does seem likely that timed-entry reservation passes will tend to become more and more common. Some national parks have already integrated this into their booking system and are requiring everybody to check-in within their designated time frame.
If you frequently visit national parks, make sure you check out their booking procedures so you don’t miss out on any new updates. Also, note that parks may quickly (and without notice) change their policies. Always check the national park website for the most up-to-date information!
For all of your camping and trip planning needs, look no further than RV LIFE Campgrounds and RV LIFE Trip Wizard. RV LIFE Campgrounds 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 LIFE Trip Wizard gets you to your camping destinations utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to your RV and travel preferences.
Jennifer lives with her husband in a 29′ trailer in Mexico. She is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers. Jennifer Jennings has been RVing for 2+ years and writing about the RV and Van Life for 2+ years. Jennifer specializes in topics such as Lifestyle, van life, campgrounds features, destination features, and product lists.
19 thoughts on “Will You Need A Timed Entry Reservation Pass To Enter National Parks?”
Glacier National Park – Just helped a friend get timed entry passes to Glacier. Each pass is good for 3 days. Most of the passes are granted 3 or 4 months in advance, but 1/4 of the passes are held back and awarded the day before entry. Go to recreation.gov and register. The signup time is at 8 am mountain time. They go in seconds so be ready.
If you don’t get a pass the entry gates are open before 6 am and after 4pm for entry. Not much time to see anything, but at least you can get in.
If I have and America the beautiful pass do I still need to make reservations?
Yes. We were recently at Arches National Park. Our pass allowed us free entry, but we still had to go on the website and book a time slot which was not hard to do.
In National Parks that have timed entry – you still need to make reservations. Glacier requires a reservation. I have heard that Rocky Mountain and Yosemite might require them, but you should check all parks your are going to see, just to be sure.
This very disappointing to hear. The main reason we travel to the USA from Australia is to visit state and National parks. They are wonders of your land that should be accessible to the people when ever they choose. For overseas visitors like ourselves who are often limited for time, only have small windows of opportunity, and if that particular time period is fully booked, well we would miss out. We have experienced this with Alcatraz, we have been 3 times to San Francisco and still haven’t been to Alcatraz.
The timed entry was inevitable. Too many people, too much abuse to parks.
What’s funny is, if you come in before rangers are there, some parks have US Highways or other arteries, you can get in with no timed entry.
Are you going to have a specific time in which you have to exit the park? And if you don’t exit by set time, are they going to come looking for?
Glacier gives you a 3 day pass. They only control entry between 6am and 4pm. You can get in without a reservation before 6am and after 4pm. Not sure about other parks. I went to Glacier last year, and just helped a friend get a reservation pass last week. Once you are in, they don’t care when you leave.
We have/are experiencing the Timed Entry Reservation in Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park. This is our third visit to RMNP and will be our last. The Res system has added a level of stress and aggravation to the trip that is exactly what we were hoping to escape.
I was on the computer at the stroke of when times were available, and only the dregs were available within 2 minutes. I have not spoken to anyone that is happy with the system, except the Gov. bureaucrats that are reveling in their new level of power and control.
I’m going elsewhere.
I feel the same way, this is nothing but a bunch of bureaucrat CRAP, I feel this will eliminate a lot of visitors to our national parks and hope that they, Government pays the price for this stupidness. Lots of lost revenue to the Nation Parks…
If you enter the parks before 9 or after 3, you do not need a reservation and veterans can enter anytime. We were just at Rocky Mt. National Park and they told us that there, but aren’t publicizing it.
So if you have a mechanical breakdown which delays your travel you will be doubly screwed. Delay in travel and nowhere to get to once fixed.
Thank you for this very informative article. We are in our 3rd year of unplanned fulltime RV living, and it is not for the lazy or the faint of heart. The social, governmental and cultural influences are trying really hard to include “escapees”. Could turn out to be a good thing? Maybe not. Thanks again and safe, happy camping!
Ok article, but it would have been actually useful if you included a list of national parks that are presently using timed entry reservations.
I think it stinks that you make a person find a time they can enter the parks. What if nothing is available until dark? What if there is nothing available until several days after your reservation starts? What about those that have reservations at hotels inside the park..is a timed arrival time going to start for that also? The parks belong to everyone, and if you have a reservation to stay in one, you shouldn’t be restricted as to when you can enter. And if this is all due to Covid health requirements, does this mean all this stuff will end when Covid is done or is it a way to install rules that will go on forever? More big brother?
This is going to stress many RV campers out. I have NEVER experienced a issue checking in a National park like the one they say they are trying to avoid with timed entry. This is simply a means to discourage campers from using our national parks. Can you imagine driving a thousand miles trying to stay on schedule to meet a check in window? You would have to plan to arrive one day early and find a local camp spot to spend the night. COVID is being used to manage how we live our lives and pull back our freedoms.
So what happens when there’s a major accident on the highway and I’m delayed by three hours? Or I have to stop to repair a flat tire? Does this mean I now have no place to camp because everything nearby is booked solid and I missed my time window? This seems like a really bad idea. Even hotels and motels allow you to check in anytime between 2:00 pm and midnight.
Timed entry??? Why not just say that you will need a reservation?
Acadia National Park already uses “timed entry passes” for access to Cadillac Mountain. You also have to appear 30 minutes before your access time in order to be ready to go at the precise time. You also have to have a car pass- purchased online without a discount for lifetime pass holders- in order to get into the park itself. The car pass is for 1 week.
Luckily we found this all out on the National Park website a couple of months before our visit.
No more “spur of the moment” trips to this NP.