Planning on RV roadtripping to a national park but don’t know which national parks require reservations? See our list of NPS reservations for updated 2023 changes!
In the past several years, the National Park Service has seen big and small changes to our national park system. And, since 2020, there has been an increased reliance on reservations to the introduction of timed-entry permits and fee increases. Here's a look at some national park updates visitors can expect to see this year.
Timed-Entry Permits and Reservations
Back in 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park was the first national park to implement a timed-entry permit. The change was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and supposed to be a temporary way to manage visitation. However, in 2021, Rocky Mountain National Park brought back reservations for timed-entry permits, and they're still sticking with them in 2023. Which other national parks require reservations?
Which National Parks Require Reservations 2023?
Yosemite and Glacier National Parks introduced timed-entry permit systems in 2021, and like Rocky Mountain National Park, they're still using them. The success of these programs has led other national parks to try them as well. Arches National Park introduced timed-entry permits in 2022, along with Zion National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Acadia National Park, Muir Woods National Monument, Red Rock Canyon, and Hawaii's Haleakala National Park.
It should be noted that the scope of timed-entry permits varies from park to park.
For instance, Glacier National Park implemented a reservation system for accessing Going-to-the-Sun Road through the West Entrance from May 26th to September 10th, 2023. If you want to access Going-to-the-Sun Road through the St. Mary Entrance, you will need a reservation for July 1st to September 10th, 2023.
Meanwhile, Zion started requiring timed-entry permits for hikers who want to make use of the Angels Landing Trail starting March 1st, 2023, while Arches National Park's timed-entry permits will apply to all day-use visitors between April 1st and October 31st, 2023.
If you're planning an RV road trip to any of these national parks this year, they usually allow you to make timed-entry permit NPS reservations several months out, so jump on their websites and reserve a spot now.
Reservations for Camping
Of particular relevance for RV travelers is the fact that more national parks are doing away with first-come, first-served campgrounds in 2023. Which national parks require reservations for camping? Grand Teton National Park has completely done away with first-come, first-served camping, with all spots requiring online reservations.
Some national parks require reservations only for certain campgrounds, while others can be expected to follow Grand Teton's example and require reservations for all sites. Plan ahead of time, and check if your preferred campground requires NPS reservations before you head out.
Look Out for Price Increases in 2023
Visitors to Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore never previously had to pay an entry fee, but that changed in 2022. And, per person, overnight backcountry fees for Grand Canyon National Park went up from $8 to $12 (in addition to a $10 backcountry permit) in 2022. Rocky Mountain National Park's single-vehicle entry fees went up by $5 in May 2022, rising from $25 to $30 for a single-day pass, while Rocky Mountain's overnight winter camping fees went up from $20 to $30 in October 2022.
If visiting a park introducing timed-entry permits, these also often come with fees; for example, timed-entry permits are "free" at most or all parks, but all actually come with an unavoidable $2 online service charge. Meanwhile, in 2022, Acadia National Park in Maine introduced timed-entry permits for the Cadillac Summit Road at $6 per vehicle.
It's not all bad news: The National Park System has designated five fee-free days for 2023 (January 16th, April 22nd, August 4th, September 23rd, and November 11th), so take advantage if you can!
Be Mindful of Nature-Preserving Measures
Due to concerns about the effects of climate change, along with the increasing public use of national parks in the past several years, many national parks are taking increased measures or continuing policies to preserve their environments. You can consider the aforementioned timed-entry permits and fee increases as part of these measures, but there are other things national parks are doing as well.
More trails will likely have signs warning hikers away from venturing off-trail to protect flora and fauna. Some campgrounds might be closed for renovations, while especially in the West, prescribed fires (a.k.a. controlled burns) in places where forest or wildfires are common in summer. It's all a part of ensuring these parks' natural resources will still be around for future generations to enjoy.
Visit National Parks in 2023 with Cruise America
Now that you're in on the latest national park updates put that knowledge to good use with a road trip. No RV? No problem! Cruise America has RVs for rent or sale that can get you to wherever you want to go. Before you make any NPS reservations, visit Cruise America to reserve your RV rental first! Get in touch with Cruise America now!