How to Get Around National Park Timed Entry: 5 Success Tips

Some of America’s most popular destinations are requiring National Park Timed entry permits in the 2023 season. These reservations are required to prevent overcrowding of the parks.

Sometimes, no matter how ahead of the game you are, you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have access to the National Park you’re trying to visit. Luckily, I’m sharing 5 ways you can get around the National Park Timed Entry Permits. 

What To Do When You Don’t Get Timed Entry

  1. Book Lodging in the Park
  2. Arrive Before or After Reservation Hours
  3. Secure a Wilderness Permit
  4. Book a Private Tour
  5. Hop on a Park Shuttle
We Love Our National Parks! Especially, Rocky Mountain National Park

How to Get Around National Park Timed Entry 

No matter how you plan, sometimes snagging a National Park Timed Entry reservation simply isn’t in your cards. If this is the case for you, here are 5 ways you can get around the National Park timed entry systems.

1. Book Lodging in the Park

Booking a campsite, cabin, or hotel room. This will act as your entry permit for the number of days you are staying in the park.

This is definitely the best way to ensure you have access to the park for all of the days that you will be visiting. Think of it as killing two birds with one stone! Lodging and park entry all in one. 

Camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Northern Unit

2. Arrive Before or After Reservation Hours

National Park Timed Entry reservations are often only required between certain hours. If you arrive prior to or after operating hours, you’ll be able to enter the park.

It’s important to note that you should allow yourself a 15 to 20-minute cushion when arriving before the *allocated* time frame. If there is a line or delay, you might find yourself out of luck. 

Early morning drives in Yellowstone National Park

3. Secure a Wilderness Permit

Plan ahead and secure a wilderness permit. Oftentimes, wilderness permits and tours required by the National Park System will allow you to enter the park.

Backcountry camping permits, ranger-guided hikes, or self-guided hike permits allow you to explore the parks in a new way while also acting as your entry permit. For example, a Fiery Furnace permit in Arches National Park 

Fiery Furnace wilderness permit in Arches National Park allows you to escape the crowds!

4. Book a Private Tour

Experience the National Parks in a unique way. Book a private tour with a private company to ensure entry into the park and an unforgettable experience.

Check the park’s website to see permitted business services. Book a tour to fly fish, rock climb, bike, or hike with a professional guide. You’ll be sure to learn interesting facts about the park while embarking on an unforgettable adventure.

See the best sights when visiting National Parks by booking a tour

5. Hop on a Park Shuttle

Many parks have shuttles that will bring you into the park from the closest local town. Hop on a park shuttle to skip the timed entry permit system and experience the park without worrying about parking.

This is also a great way to avoid traffic within the National Parks. Often, park shuttles have a designated lane that allows them to bypass passenger cars. Some park hiker shuttles require a reservation that can be made the night before at 5 PM. 

The Zion Shuttle is a great way to get around the park!

What is National Park Timed Entry?

A timed entry ticket is designed to prevent overcrowding in popular National Parks. You reserve a timeslot, in advance, for the day you plan on entering the park. You can only enter the park within your reserved timeframe or before or after the required hours.  

How Does Timed Entry in the National Parks Work?

Timed entry in the National Parks requires you to reserve an arrival timeslot. You must arrive at the gate within your two-hour window to be allowed into the National Park. 

Can You Just Show up at a National Park?

You can just show up at most national parks. There are 7 National Parks that you cannot just show up to in 2023. An American the Beautiful parks pass is required for entry into almost all National Parks. 

Which Parks Require National Park Timed Entry in 2023?

There are a few parks that have already announced their National Park Timed Entry Reservation plans for the 2023 season. 

Exploring Acadia National park

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

From May 25 to Oct 22, you need a reservation to drive the Cadillac Summit Road. Cadillac Summit is Acadia’s most popular drive-up spot and has one of the best sunrise views of all the National Parks! 

A beautiful sunset at Arches National Park

2. Arches National Park, Utah

From Apr 3 to Oct 3, you will need a timed park entry ticket between 6 am and 5 pm. Tickets are available on a first come first serve basis three months in advance. There is both a seasonal lottery and a day-before lottery which you can access here

Photo Credit: Trip Savvy

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

A vehicle reservation between 6 am and 3 pm for several areas of the park. From May 26 – September 10th a pass is required for the West Entrance of Going to the Sun Road Corridor and the North Fork Area. From July 1 – September 10th, reservations are required for the St. Mary entrance of the Sun Road Corridor, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine Valley. 

Photo Credit: Mapquest

4. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

If you want to enter the park between 3 am and 7 am to catch the sunrise, you’ll need to make a reservation online. To observe the sunrise from Haleakala Summit, a reservation ensures a parking space at one of the four summit sunrise viewing locations. 

Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park will require a permit system in 2023. There are two different types of permits: Bear Lake Road Corridor (5am – 6pm) and everywhere but Bear Lake Road Corridor (9am – 2pm). Permits will be required from May 26 – October 22. 

Photo Credit: Seniors Guide

6. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Between May 1 and Nov 30, reservations are required for Shenandoah’s Old Rag Mountain. This popular hike includes the Saddles, Ride, and Ridge Access trails.

The beauty of Yosemite!

7. Yosemite National Park, California

In order to manage the stunning Horsetail Falls glow, a reservation will be required to enter Yosemite National Park on the weekends of February 10–12, February 17–19, and February 24–26 in 2023. 

Amazing views from Zion’s Observation Point, looking down at Angel’s Landing

8. Zion National Park, Utah

A permit is required to hike Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing is listed as one of the top 10 hikes in the United States! 

Which National Parks are the Best?

It’s really too difficult to choose which National Park is the best. Some of my personal favorites include Grand Tetons, Yosemite, and the Utah Mighty 5.

We have a full list of amazing National Park guides and itineraries. This complete travel guide should help you plan your next big National Park Adventure.

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