There’s nowhere better to be on a hot summer’s day than in a beautiful American National Park.

But if you’re planning a spontaneous day trip or weekend away, then it’s time to think again.

The team at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington just announced that visitors will now need advanced reservations to visit this summer.

That makes a total of 11 national parks that are using a reservation system this year. And some reservation spots go fast!

Here’s the complete list:  

Mount Rainier National Park 

Edith Creek in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier is the most recent national park to join the pre-booking system.

You will need a reservation to enter the famous Paradise Corridor within the park from May 24-Sept 2 between the hours of 7 am and 3 pm. The same system will be in place to enter the Sunrise Corridor between July 4 – Sept 2.

Each reservation costs $2 and gives you access to the area for a two-hour entry period.

Pedestrians and bikers are exempt from reservations, so if you can’t get a reservation spot then why not hike or cycle to these areas instead?

Acadia National Park

sunrise at Newport Cove in Acadia National Park in Maine

Acadia National Park in Maine is a national park that covers a stretch of rocky coastline. It is the 5th most popular national park in the U.S.

Driving the Park Loop Road to watch the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain is the most popular experience here. But you will need a reservation to take a vehicle on Cadillac Summit Road.

Each reservation will cost $6 and reservations are required from May 22 – October 27. You can choose from a sunset or daytime reservation ticket, with each offering different timed entry slots.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Pathway through the Big Room, Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns is an incredible underground national park that has to be seen to be believed. You’ll find spectacular limestone chambers, stalactites and stalagmites as well as tunnels to explore here.

Timed entry reservations are required to enter Carlsbad Caverns National Park no matter what the time of year. You can book a slot up to 30 days in advance and reservations cost $1 plus the $15 national park entrance fee.

Arches National Park

Turret arch through the North Window at Arches National Park 800x800

This national park is located in the heart of Utah and is most famous for its balanced rocks and easy to access hiking trails.

You cannot enter any part of this national park without a timed reservation slot between 7am and 4pm. This applies from April 1- October 31, 2024. Each reservation will cost $2.

If you want to visit the park but there are no reservation slots remaining, then you could always plan a sunset hike instead. No reservations required!

Glacier National Park 

Peaceful calm reflections on Lake Josephine in Glacier National Park

The Glacier National Park is obscenely beautiful, thanks to its blue lakes and glacier-topped mountains.

Popular with hikers and cyclists, the Glacier National Park also contains what has been awarded the best scenic drive in the U.S. But to try it yourself, you’ll need a reservation.

Timed entry reservations are required to drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. You’ll also need a vehicle reservation for Many Glacier, and North Fork.

The cost for each reservation is $2 and your reservation is valid for one full day. This reservation fee is in addition to the park entrance fee.

Shenandoah National Park

View from Shenandoah National Park

This national park is actually a preserved section of the larger Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. People visit for the views and the hiking trails, but it is perhaps best known for the exciting Skyline Drive road.

Old Rag is the most popular hiking route in the park. But you will now need a reservation to enjoy it between March 1 and November 30.

Only 800 tickets are available each day, with reservations costing just $1.

Haleakala National Park

Haleakalā National Park

This is a spectacular volcanic national park on the Hawaiian island of Maui. People travel from across the U.S. to climb the volcano and watch the sunrise above the clouds.

But with so many travelers keen to enjoy this bucket list experience you now need an advance reservation to drive to the summit before sunrise.

When you have this reservation you can enter the park between the hours of 3 am to 7 am. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance and although the tickets are technically free you will need to pay a $1 booking fee.

Want to avoid the crowds? Skip the sunrise crew and enjoy a near-identical experience at sunset instead.

Rocky Mountain National Park 

Sinclair Canyon outside the village or Radium Hot Springs. Sinclair Canyon is the main pass through the Rocky Mountains in Kootenay National Park

Aside from its outstanding natural beauty, the Rocky Mountain National Park is famous for being one of the highest national parks in the U.S.

It’s a dream for hikers, while less active outdoor adventurers dream of driving the Ridge Top Trail.

From May 24 – October 20, you will need to secure a permit to access any area of the Rocky Mountain National Park. This is to limit congestion.

Each daily reservation costs $2, which is in addition to the park’s $25 daily entry fee.

Yosemite National Park  


Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular in the United States.

But the sheer number of tourists this attracts means that reservations are needed to control crowd numbers.

Visitors will need reservations to enter Yosemite in February to see Horsetail Falls as well as from mid-April to October.

Reservations cost $2 per person and are available from mid-January for the summer season. With entrance queues exceeding 3 hours on certain days in 2023, this system is well worth using.

Zion National Park

stunning red rock cliff face against blue sky in zion national park utah
Photo by David Guest

Reservations are needed to access certain parts, but not all, of Zion National Park. You currently need a reservation to hike any one of the 3 hiking trails in the park.

This is incredibly popular as the Zion Narrows hike is considered one of the highlights of the park.

But all other areas of the park, as well as the park shuttle, can be enjoyed reservation-free.

If you want to hike here, then you’ll have to pick your preferred trail and apply for a specific permit. These are available via a lottery-style system and cost $6 each.

Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Park

Muir Woods National Monument technically doesn’t require a reservation for access, but you do need to make a reservation for parking at this incredibly popular attraction.

Reservations are required year-round but can be booked 3 months in advance.

They sell out fast, particularly during peak periods, so it’s worth making your reservation as early as possible so you’re not disappointed.

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