7 Hacks To Visit National Parks Without A Reservation In 2023

Table of Contents

You Can Visit National Parks Without A Reservation!

Heading out to visit a national park this year but don’t have a park reservation? There are many ways to still get in and visit national parks without a reservation!

It can be extremely frustrating when you want to enjoy a last-minute trip or even a trip planned in advance but find out that no more park reservations are available.

No fear! Our outdoor adventure family has visited 37 national parks so far as part of our goal to see them all.

Along the way, we have discovered some creative national park reservations loopholes so you can visit these parks even if no national park reservations are available.

Let’s dive in to get your national park trip back on track!

(This article contains affiliate links. When you purchase using these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep the content on this site free which is a win win for both of us! See the Disclaimer.)

Girl hugging redwood tree - visit national parks without a reservation

Why Do You Need Reservations For National Parks?

As frustrating as it is to need to plan ahead for national park entrance reservations, the reservation system was put into place for a very good reason.

National parks are America’s most beautiful and special places. The problem?

The US national parks have been literally loved to death. Extreme overcrowding and over-visitation were harming the fragile environments that the national park system stands to protect.

The large crowds were also making it feel more like the Disneyland of nature than the truly serene outdoor experience that the national park service is going for.

This has been a sad but honest reality in the last few years. Even nature has a capacity, and it has been reached, and then some since the pandemic!

As inconvenient as it is to have to make national park reservations to enter and enjoy a park, creating a limited number of available tickets or permits helps to protect the parks and maintain the visitor experience.

Girl standing by lake in Yosemite Valley - visiting a national park without reservations

What Are National Park Reservations For?

There are currently 4 types of national park reservations required depending on the park and what you plan to do during your trip.

Entrance Reservation or Day-Use Reservations

To control the crowd levels in national parks, some parks on our list require a national park entrance reservation.

This reservation is on top of the entrance fee and must be made in advance of your visit to enter the national park.

Some entrance reservations at national parks are timed-entry reservations for a specific time of day.

While other national parks reservation system reservations are good for entrance at any time on that date. The process varies per park.

Specific Experience/Part Of The Park Reservation

Some national parks don’t require entrance reservations but do require reservations for a specific section of the park or experience.

For example, in 2023, Acadia National Park no longer requires park entrance reservations however, a reservation is required for Cadillac Mountain, which is a popular park destination.

Camping Reservation

National park camping reservations are required to stay the night in a park.

Most national parks require reservations to be made in advance however, some parks do accept walk-up campers.

Each park has a different reservation window for when campsites become available.

For many of the major national parks, campsites are often sold-out within seconds of the reservation window opening.

As long-time full-time RVers, we have many tips and tricks to get these tough-to-book national park campsites.

Grab our FREE GUIDE to learn all of our recreation gov reservation hacks so you can get these campsites too!

Get Your National Parks Camping Reservations FREE GUIDE HERE!

We even have a hack to get national park campsites that are already sold-out. We use Arvie, which searches for campsite cancellations and then books them for us.

Get your Arvie FREE TRIAL HERE + 10% off to check it out for yourself!

Finally a solution to sold-out RV campsites!

Backcountry camping or backpacking requires a permit. See the national park website for more information on how to get a permit for this type of camping.

Hiking Permits

To reduce overcrowding on the most popular national park trails, some parks have begun to require a hiking permit.

An example of a required hiking permit is Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.

Zion doesn’t require a park entrance reservation in 2023, however you will need a permit for the Angel’s Landing Hike.

How Do You Get National Parks Reservations?

Each national park has its own advance reservation procedures and policies. Always check the website to find the most up-to-date information on what national parks require reservations.

Advance National Park Reservations

It’s always the best idea to find out when reservation windows open and make all reservations on that date for your trip.

Booking park reservations, permits, and camping or lodging reservations in advance will always give you the best chance of scoring your desired trip dates.

Last-Minute National Park Reservations

Some parks also offer national park reservations releases a couple of days or the day before. This is a way for the national parks requiring reservations to make cancellations available to others.

An example of this is Arches National Park. Arches park reservations are available 3 months in advance.

However, they also open up some last-minute reservations that are released the day before. Check to see if your desired park has last-minute options.

Tips For Making National Park Reservations

Before we dive into how to enter national parks without a reservation, let’s first snag some tips to help get the reservation.

Even if you didn’t score the nps reservations you are looking for on this trip, keep this info in mind for the next time around!

Create An Recreation.gov Account

Set up your Recreation.gov account in advance and get familiar with how the website works. Even consider practicing to get the reservation a few days before you need to try for yours.

You need fast fingers sometimes to grab these reservations, and a little time and practice on the website really help.

Set A Reminder And Note The Time Zone

Create a calendar or phone reminder with the date and time that you need to get the reservation so you are sure not to miss the window.

Often these national parks reserve every spot in just seconds, and you don’t want to miss out.

Make sure to note what time zone the reservation system is in. It’s easy to miss a window with the wrong time zone in mind.

Recruit A Friend To Help

These reservations can be gone in seconds, and even the fastest fingers can’t get them alone sometimes.

Consider having a friend also try to help you get it. Often, two fast fingers are better than one, especially if you have slower internet.

My husband and I both log in and practice so we can each try at the right time.

Between the two of us, one of us is usually successful.

Find Fast Internet And Log In Ahead Of Time

Make sure to be logged in ahead of time and have the information entered, so all you have to do is hit the button at the right time.

Increase your chances of getting the reservation by going somewhere with fast internet.

You may need to head to a public location that has great WIFI.

We are always camping and are often in rural areas. A slow internet connection is a killer when trying to score reservations.

Rocky shore of Acadia - visit national parks without a reservation

Ways To Enter Without National Park Reservations

There may be times when you would like to visit national parks and monuments requiring reservations in 2023 but aren’t able to score one. There is no need to change your trip plans.

Instead, check out these hacks and national park reservation loopholes to explore America’s national parks that require a reservation even if you don’t have one!

1) Check The Hours Needed For A Reservation

Every national park has a different time window and date window for when park entrance reservations are required.

You may be able to come into the park earlier in the morning or after a certain time of day in the afternoon without a reservation.

For example, Arches National Park requires reservations for park entrance only from 7 am to 4 pm.

You can enter the park early or late without a reservation.

Many national parks that require reservations are open 24 hours, so check what hours reservations are required and see if entering at an alternative time is a workaround for the park you wish to visit.

Also, check the days of the week that reservations are required for.

For example, in Yosemite National Park, entrance reservations are only required on the weekends in February.

You can still enter the park Monday-Thursday without having a reservation.

2) Tours And Tour Operators

Did you know that if you book a commercial tour in a national park, you often don’t need a park reservation?

Many park concessionaires and tour guides offer national park experiences.

This can be a great way to both get into the park without a reservation and experience it in a completely new way with a guide.

Viator is a great place to find commercial tours in national parks.

You can find just about any kind of national park adventure, from hiking tours, 4WD tours, aerial tours, photography tours, sunrise or sunset tours, climbing, rafting, and paddling tours.

3) Camping Or Overnight Reservation

If you have an overnight reservation in a national park, you don’t need a separate park entrance reservation.

This includes camping, lodges, or other in-park accommodations. Consider making a camping reservation as a way of getting into the park without a reservation.

It can be difficult to get camping reservations in both state parks and national parks, but we have found a few tricks.

Check out our FREE GUIDE for getting tough national park campsite reservations.

Get Your Secrets To Scoring National Park Campsites FREE GUIDE HERE!

Did you know that you can also use Arvie to find campground cancellations?

It will find and book campsite cancellations for you so that you get the top sites.

We have scored some incredible campsites with this service.

Get your Arvie FREE TRIAL HERE + 10% off to check it out for yourself!

Graphic showing 5 ways to skip national park reservations.

4) Permits

If you have a permit or reservation for anything within the national park, then you don’t need a separate entrance reservation to get in.

This includes permits for hikes, activities, rock climbing, backcountry camping, and backpacking.

Note that permits require their own advance reservations, so always check to see what those procedures are to see if this is an option for your trip.

5) Enter By Bike Or On Foot

Most national parks don’t require park entrance reservations for visitors entering on bicycles or by foot.

The entrance fee still applies, but normally the park reservation is for vehicles. This could be a creative option if you are used to hiking or cycling long distances.

Note that there may be limitations to doing this in some parks. Check the details of the national park reservation system.

An example of this is Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park, which is partially closed to bikes from 11 am to 4 pm from June 15 through Labor Day in September.

Check the individual park rules and regulations before entering via bike or on foot.

6) Public Transportation

Did you know that some national parks can be visited by public transportation or alternative forms of transportation?

This can be a creative way to explore a national park without having a car or an entrance reservation.

An example of this is the YARTS bus which takes you into Yosemite National Park.

The bus fare includes your park admission and is a great way to get in without having a park reservation.

Once inside the park, you can connect to the free national park shuttle.

7) Visit During The Shoulder Season

National park reservation systems operate during peak visitation seasons as a form of crowd control. Why not skip the peak season altogether?

Consider visiting the national parks in the shoulder seasons of spring or fall to skip the crowds and the reservation system.

Fall is our favorite time to visit national parks.

The crowds of summer are winding down, and the changing leaves and cooler temps make outdoor adventures much more comfortable.

A winter visit may even be a completely new adventure and an exciting way to break up the dark, cold season.

For example, Rocky Mountain National Park requires 2023 park reservations from May 26 to October 22.

Why not visit with fewer crowds in early May or the last week of October?

Let’s jump into what national parks need reservations of some kind to visit in 2023.

Snow covered mountains reflecting off of lake - visit a national park without a reservation

Which National Parks Require Reservations 2023?

Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado

There is a reservation process in place for the 2023 season in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Why Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

Rocky Mountain National Park has gorgeous lakes surrounded by towering mountain scenery.

This park is full of outdoor adventure opportunities and looks postcard perfect. It’s a must-see national park!

What Reservations Are Required In Rocky Mountain National Park in 2023?

Rocky Mountain National Park is trying another pilot program season of timed entry permits park reservations.

A reservation is required in 2023 from May 26 to October 22.

This year’s 2023 park reservation system is a little different from last year and recent years.

A timed-entry ticket is still required, however the time period that a permit is needed has been reduced.

Another change this year to RMNP reservations is that visitors with a Park Access + timed entry reservation are allowed to exit the Bear Lake area and can re-enter that area again anytime after 2 pm.

The entire park reservation system has been extended later into the season this year and ends on October 22, 2023.

Types Of Rocky Mountain National Park Timed Entry Permit Reservations

There are two types of Rocky Mountain National Park timed entry tickets: Park Access and Park Access +.

You will want to choose the one that fits the locations you plan to visit in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The main difference in RMNP timed entry options is whether or not you would like to visit the scenic drive Bear Lake Road Corridor.

Both permits are a timed entry ticket that allows you to arrive at the park entrance station within a set 2-hour time window. You can leave at any time.

Permit Choice #1: Park Access Timed Entry

  • choose this if you DON’T want to visit the Bear Lake Road Corridor
  • only required if entering the park between peak hours 9 am to 2 pm MDT
  • includes all areas of the park except for the Bear Lake Corridor

Permit Choice #2: Park Access + Timed Entry

  • choose this permit to visit the Bear Lake Corridor
  • this permit is required to visit the Bear Lake Road Corridor part of the park between peak times 5 am to 6 pm MDT
  • also includes the rest of the park

Park Entrance Reservations:

Yes. A Rocky Mountain timed entry reservation/permit is required to enter the park from May 26 to October 22, 2023.

Reservation Permits:

Yes. To enter Rocky Mountain National Park, you must choose either the Park Access or Park Access + (includes the Bear Lake Road Corridor) Permit.

Separate Experience Reservations:

None

How To Get Rocky Mountain National Park Reservations

Timed entry system reservations are released at 8 am MDT on Recreation.gov.

Be sure to have an account created and be logged in before that time, so all you have to do is hit the button at exactly 8:00.

 

Schedule To Book Timed-Entry Reservation Rocky Mountain NP

  • May 1: book dates May 26 through June 30
  • June 1: book July dates plus any still available June dates
  • July 1: book August dates and any dates still open from July
  • August 1: book September dates and any still available August dates
  • September 1: book October dates through 10/22 and any entry tickets still open from September

How To Enter Without Rocky Mountain National Park Reservations

All you have to do to skip Rocky Mountain Park reservations is to get up early and head into the park before the reservation time is required. 

Enter Early

If you desire to visit Bear Lake Road, then you will need to be up very early and head there before 5:00 am MDT.

 

Allow extra time to wait in line because others may have the same idea! 

 

If you aren’t visiting the Bear Lake Corridor of the park, you only have to enter before 9:00 am MDT. 

 

The entrance lines may be long during this time of day, so don’t cut it too close to 9.

Enter By Bike

Another option if you need to come in during reservation hours is to enter by bike. This is a great way to enjoy the scenic ride along Trail Ridge Road.

Camping Reservation

Also, consider camping in the park to skip needing an entrance reservation.

 

Visitors with a camping reservation don’t need an entrance permit/reservation. 

 

Book A Tour

You can also get into RMNP without a reservation by booking a commercial tour. 

 

Check out this sunrise photo hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes. A photographer will guide you to these scenic locations with photo tips to get your own epic shots. 

 

Our family’s favorite place in Rocky Mountain National Park is the Bear Lake area. 

 

The hiking and views are incredible, so it is worth the effort to see it.

Cost Of Rocky Mountain National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee/park pass.

Park Entrance Fee:

$30 – single day vehicle entrance pass OR

$35 – 7 consecutive days vehicle entrance

Reservation Fee:

$2 – processing fee for Recreation.gov

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Mountain lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Arches National Park Utah

Do you need reservations for Arches National Park in 2023? Yes! Last year the park began an entrance reservation system, and it is continuing this program this year.

Why Visit Arches National Park?

Arches is a rock lover and photographer’s dream!

The incredible rock formations throughout the park are breathtaking and simply must be seen in person.

This is also one of the most popular national parks in the United States, which makes it one of the most crowded.

National park reservations are a way to control visitor numbers in the most popular parks to protect the fragile environment that everyone flocks to enjoy.

Our family is crazy about rocks so we really enjoyed exploring Arches and found it worth a visit, even with reservations required.

What Reservations Are Required In Arches National Park in 2023?

Looking to take a trip to Arches National Park in 2023? You will need a timed entry reservation to visit from April 1 to October 31.

Park reservations are only required from 7 am to 4 pm.

If you don’t have a timed entry reservation, you can still enter Arches National Park by coming early in the morning before 7:00 or after 4 pm MDT.

Park Entrance Reservations:

Do you need reservations to Arches National Park? Yes. If you are visiting between April 1 through October 31 from 7:00 am – 4:00 pm MDT, you will need a timed advance reservation to enter the park.

Reservation Permits:

Yes. If you would like to hike the Fiery Furnace, you will need a separate permit reservation.

Separate Experience Reservations:

Yes. Only for the Fiery Furnace hike.

How To Get Arches National Park Reservations

Timed entry park reservations for Arches National Park are available as a first-come, first-served basis release 3 months in advance of your travel date.

Reservations are released at 8:00 am MDT on Recreation.gov.

Make sure you have created your account and logged in prior to that time so all you have to do is hit the button at 8:00.

Schedule To Book Advance Timed-Entry Reservations Arches NP

  • January 10: book April dates
  • February 1: book May dates
  • March 1: book June dates
  • April 1: book July dates
  • May 1: book August dates
  • June 1: book September dates
  • July 1: book October dates

Last Minute Schedule To Book Timed-Entry Reservations Arches NP

A small number of last-minute entry reservations will be released one day before entry at 6 pm MDT on Recreation.gov.

How To Get A Fiery Furnace Permit in 2023

Hiking the Fiery Furnace is a unique and popular experience in Arches National Park. This hike requires getting a permit in advance.

Fiery Furnace permits are available on Recreation.gov 7 days in advance and must be reserved no later than 2 days before your hike date.

How To Get In Without Arches Reservations

Don’t have an Arches National Park reservation?

Consider booking a campsite, reserving a hiking permit for the Fiery Furnace, or bike into the park on the scenic paved park road. 

 

Book A Tour

The best way to enter Arches National Park without a reservation is to book a commercial tour. Here are a couple of incredible options.

 

Ever want to see a side of a national park that most never make it to?

 

Consider this 4WD tour of the backcountry of Arches, where you will see Tower Arch and even fossilized dinosaur tracks.

 

To really enjoy a scenic overview of the area, check out this 1/2 day scenic tour morning or sunset. 

 

This tour takes you through Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park.

Cost Of Arches National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$30 – Vehicle Entrance

Reservation Fee:

$2 – Timed Entry Ticket Reservation

Fiery Furnace Permit Fee:

$10 – Per Hiker Permit

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Rock arch in Arches National Park

Glacier National Park Montana

Many people consider Glacier National Park to be the most scenic national park in the US. Are you planning to visit in 2023? Keep reading for some tips!

Why Visit Glacier National Park?

Glacier is a one-of-a-kind park filled with mountain vistas and gorgeous glacial lakes.

While there aren’t many glaciers left, sadly, to explore in this park, it’s still a scenery stunner with plenty to see and do.

What Reservations Are Required In Glacier National Park in 2023?

Going To The Sun Road may be the most scenic road in North America, and almost every visitor wants to experience this portion of the park.

As beautiful as Glacier National Park is, it’s also a very popular park that leads to crowds and park road congestion.

Glacier has a park entrance reservation system, including Going To The Sun road reservations to drive your own private vehicle, in place to reduce crowds during the peak 2023 season.

Glacier National Park entrance reservations are required (dates depend on the park entrance you choose) from May 26 through September 10.

Park entrance reservations are required daily from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm MDT.

Glacier National Park is open 24 hours, so you can enter early or late without a park reservation except for the West Entrance to Going-to-the-Sun road.

This entrance will not allow early entry (before 6 am) due to construction limitations through the 2023 season.

West Park Entrances

The west park entrances to access Going-to-the-Sun Road and the North Fork area require park entrance vehicle reservations from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm MDT May 26 through September.

Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor vehicle reservations are valid for 3 days. North Fork area reservations are good for 1 day.

East Park Entrances

The east park entrances Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and Rising Sun to Going-to-the-Sun Road require vehicle reservations from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm MDT July 1 through September 10.

Two Medicine and Many Glacier entrance reservations are good for 1 day.

Park Entrance Reservations:

Yes. Depending on the park entrance, park reservations are required 5/26 through 10/10 from 6 am to 3 pm.

Reservation Permits:

None

Separate Experience Reservations:

None

How To Get Glacier National Park Reservations

New in 2023, Glacier National Park entrance reservations will have 2 different booking windows.

A portion of the reservations will be available in advance, and the remaining reservations will be released the day before.

Advance Vehicle Reservations

Reservations for entrance to Glacier National Park can be made 4 months in advance on a rolling basis at 8:00 am MDT on Recreation.gov.

2023 Schedule To Book Advance Vehicle Reservations For Glacier National Park

  • February 1: book May 26 through June 30
  • March 1: book July 1 through July 30
  • April 1: book August 1 through August 31
  • May 1: book September 1 through September 10

Last Minute Vehicle Reservations

A portion of the remaining vehicle reservations will be released 24 hours in advance at 8:00 am MDT on Recreation.gov.

How To Get In Without A Glacier National Park Reservation

There are many ways to enter and enjoy Glacier National Park even if you don’t have a vehicle reservation. 

 

If your trip is prior to July 1, you can enter via Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and St. Mary entrances to Going-to-the-Sun Road without a reservation. 

 

Enter Early Or Late

Park reservations are only required from 6 am to 3 pm, so another idea is to enter after 3:00 to enjoy the park without a reservation.

 

You can also enter before 6 am to enjoy all parts of the park without a reservation except for the West Entrance to Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is under construction.

 

Camping or Lodging Reservation

You don’t need a vehicle reservation if you are camping or staying inside the national park in any overnight accommodations.

 

Commercial Tour

If you take a commercial tour of the park, you will not need a park reservation. This can be a great way to experience the park.

 

For a laid-back tour of West Glacier, check out this scenic tour. For a more adventurous trip to Glacier, check out this West Glacier rafting tour.

 

Park Shuttle

Take the free Glacier National Park shuttle.

An easy way to enjoy Going-to-the-Sun road is to park at the St. Mary Entrance/ St. Mary Visitor Center and ride the shuttle bus along the scenic drive.

Cost Of Glacier National Park Reservations And Park Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$35

Reservation Fee:

$2 – processing fee

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Snow-capped mountains behind lake - national parks without reservations

Acadia National Park Maine

Acadia National Park is the crown jewel of the US East Coast national park system. It’s also one of the most popular parks.

Why Visit Acadia National Park?

Acadia National Park is famous for its dramatic cliffside crashing waves.

The mountainous terrain, beautiful shoreline, and stunning lakes make this park and its scenic drives a favorite.

Our family loves Acadia and has spent 2 different summers there in our RV. There are plenty of one-of-a-kind activities in Acadia to enjoy.

Acadia National Park is a hiking paradise. Don’t miss the incredible unique ladder trails found only in Acadia!

Just relaxing and watching the waves crash just never gets old. There are also plenty of secret places to avoid the Acadia crowds and find some solitude.

A PRO TIP for visiting Acadia National Park is to head over to the lesser-known and much less crowded Schoodic Peninsula section of the park.

What Reservations Are Required In Acadia National Park in 2023?

The good news for visitors to Acadia National Park is that park entrance Acadia reservations are no longer required in 2023.

This means you can enter and drive through the park without reservations this year.

However, reservations for Cadillac Mountain, the popular highest point or highest peak stop in the park, are required.

A vehicle Cadillac Summit Road reservation is required from May 24th through October 22nd.

The Acadia National Park Cadillac mountain reservation vehicle registration is required any time of day.

Although the sunrise Acadia National Park is the most popular visitation time, sunset Cadillac Mountain, and all-day stops are also popular due to the incredible view at this location.

Cadillac Mountain reservations are a way to control the congestion and parking issues at the top.

The Cadillac Mountain sunrise is one of the most popular things to see in the park, but this has led to overcrowding.

We really enjoyed the view from the top and definitely think it is worth the effort to get the reservation and check it out for yourself.

Anytime you can go is a best time to enjoy the view.

Make sure to print or save a digital copy of your reservation with the QR code because phone service is limited.

Note that in 2023, Cadillac Summit Road will be closed until mid-May due to construction.

Park Entrance Reservations:

No

Reservation Permits:

None

Separate Experience Reservations:

Yes. Vehicle reservations are required for Cadillac Summit Road.

How To Get Acadia National Park Reservations

Acadia vehicle registrations for Cadillac Mountain are available in advance at Recreation.gov.

Cadillac Sumit Road sunrise and daytime reservations are required from May 24 through October 22, 2023.

Sunrise Vehicle Reservation For Cadillac Mountain Versus Daytime Vehicle Reservation

There are two versions of vehicle registrations to choose from to visit Cadillac Mountain.

Daytime Reservations

The daytime vehicle registration is a timed-entry reservation with a 30-minute entry window.

You can stay as long as you like but can’t re-enter on the same day.

Visitors can get another daytime reservation the next day if they wish or on multiple days of their trip.

Daytime reservation entrance windows begin from 6:00 am EST to 7:30 am, depending on your visit month. See this chart for times.

Sunrise Reservations

Sunrise vehicle reservations can enter in a 90-minute window. You can leave anytime but can’t re-enter later in the day.

Visitors can only get one sunrise reservation in a 7-day period, so you likely can’t come again for sunrise reservations during your trip.

You can book a daytime reservation for a different day but just not for sunrise.

Cadillac Mountain sunrise reservation windows begin anywhere from 4 am Eastern Time to 5:30 am depending on the sunrise times in your visit month. Check the times in this chart.

2023 Schedule To Book Vehicle Reservations For Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park

  • Visits from May 24 through June 30: all vehicle reservations are available 2 days before the trip date at 10:00 am EST.
  • Visits from July 1 through October 22: There is an advance and last-minute reservation option.

Advance Reservations

30% of the vehicle reservations are available 90 days in advance at 10 am EST.

Last Minute Reservations

70% of the vehicle reservations are available 2 days before trip date at 10 am EST.

How To Visit Acadia’s Cadillac Mountain Without A Cadillac Mountain Reservation

Want to check out Cadillac Mountain and don’t have a vehicle reservation? No worries!

 

Visit By Bike

Cyclists can bike to the top of the mountain without a reservation.

 

This is, of course, a steep ride but a very scenic one with many pullouts to enjoy.

 

Hike Cadillac Mountain

Our family’s favorite way to enjoy the views from the top is to do a Cadillac Mountain hike.

 

Taking a Cadillac Mountain trail is a steep but rewarding hike with 4 different trail options to reach the top.

 

Which trail you choose will determine how steep the hike up the mountain will be.

 

The South Ridge trail is a great pick. It is 3.5 miles to the top and climbs 1,400 feet. This route isn’t as steep as the other options and just a blast to hike.

 

Book A Tour

Want a more leisurely way to enjoy the views of Cadillac Mountain? Consider booking a tour to skip the need for a vehicle reservation.

 

Check out this bus tour of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park which also includes Cadillac Mountain.

 

This tour is a great way to get an overview of all of the best spots in Acadia, with an extended stop on top of Cadillac Mountain.

Cost Of Acadia National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$35 – good for 7 consecutive days

Cadillac Mountain Vehicle Reservation Fee:

$6 – per vehicle

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Rocky shore of Acadia - hacks to visit a national park with no reservatin

Haleakala National Park Hawaii

Looking to visit Haleakala National Park in 2023? Read on to find out what reservations are required to enjoy this park.

Why Visit Haleakala National Park?

Haleakala National Park in Hawaii is a stunningly beautiful and unique destination for nature lovers, hikers, and adventurers alike.

Located on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park sits atop one of the world’s tallest shield volcanoes, providing visitors with spectacular views from the summit.

What Reservations Are Required In Haleakala National Park in 2023?

The most popular park activity is to watch the sunrise in the Summit District of the park.

To curb park overcrowding, Haleakala sunrise reservations are required.

Watching the sun pop over the crater walls is a sight not to be missed.

Read on to learn how to score a permit reservation to watch the sunrise at Haleakala National Park.

Park Entrance Reservations:

No

Reservation Permits:

Yes. A Permit reservation is required to watch the sunrise in the Summit District.

Separate Experience Reservations:

None

How To Get Haleakala National Park Reservations

Sunrise reservations are released at 7:00 am HST in advance and last minute.

You may make one sunrise reservation for every 3 day park visit on Recreation.gov.

If you have a sunrise reservation, you can enter the park from 3am to 7am on your reservation date.

Note that if you don’t have a sunrise reservation, you can’t enter the national park until 7:00 am HST.

Advance Reservations

Part of the reservations are released in advance 60 days before your visit at 7:00 am HST.

This reservation is only good for 1 day on the date of the reservation.

An example is if you want to view the Haleakala sunrise on August 22, you need to make the reservation on June 23 at 7 am EST.

You can find the release date by clicking your desired date on the calendar at Recreation.gov.

Another option is to Google “when is 60 days before August 22, 2023”.

Reservations are often taken within 15 minutes, according to the park website.

Last-Minute Reservations

Additional reservations are released 48 hours in advance of your visit at 7:00 am HST on Recreation.gov. The reservation is only good for one day.

How To Get In For The Haleakala Sunrise Without A Reservation

Didn’t get a sunrise reservation but still want to enjoy this incredible park activity?

 

Technically you can walk or bike up to the summit without a reservation, but it is a long, steep trek in the dark for 10 miles.

 

Book A Tour

The best option to skip the reservation and still enjoy the Haleakala summit sunrise is to book a tour. Check out this Majestic Haleakala Sunrise Tour.

Cost Of Haleakala National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$30 – per vehicle good for 3 consecutive days

Reservation Fee:

$1 – per vehicle, good for only the day of reservation

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Family roasting marshmallows on campfire - national parks without a reservation

Muir Woods National Monument California

Muir Woods National Monument is a stunning natural paradise right out of San Francisco.

Why Visit Muir Woods National Monument?

Muir Woods is a great place to enjoy and view towering majestic redwood trees without having to travel far from the city.

This park is incredibly beautiful but also has very limited parking and many crowds due to it’s close to the city location.

What Reservations Are Required In Muir Woods National Monument?

To control the number of visitors and also help protect the park ecosystem, Muir Woods has a parking and shuttle bus reservation system for the 2023 season.

Advance reservations are required for shuttle riders and all vehicles to enter Muir Woods.

This park is small and a bit of a challenge to park, but it is worth it to view these breathtaking redwoods.

Park Entrance Reservations:

Yes. Parking and shuttle reservations are required.

Reservation Permits:

Yes. Parking and shuttle reservations are required.

Separate Experience Reservations:

None

How To Get Muir Woods National Monument Reservations

Parking and shuttle reservations are available online at GoMuirWoods.com.

Parking Reservations

A parking reservation guarantees you a place to park at Muir Woods. You have a 30 minute arrival window with your reservation.

Make your parking reservation and also pay your park entrance fee at once at GoMuirWoods.com

Shuttle Reservations

If you are parking a vehicle off-site or arriving via public transportation, you can take the Muir Woods Shuttle to the park.

The shuttle doesn’t run throughout the park but is a way to connect visitors to town.

Check the website to reserve your spot, and check the schedule at GoMuirWoods.com.

If you take the shuttle, you don’t need a parking reservation.

Note that shuttle tickets are one way, and face masks are required at the time of writing this article.

How To Enter Muir Woods Without A Reservation

Can you visit Muir Woods without a reservation? Yes! Here are some ideas.

 

Taxi or Ride-Share

You don’t need a reservation if using a ride-share, however the park doesn’t recommend using ride-share programs or taxis due to the lack of phone service in the park.

 

One alternative option is to be dropped off by a taxi or ride-share service and then wait as a standby to take the shuttle back to town, where you can call the ride-share to pick you back up.

 

Note that to ride standby on the shuttle back to town that you need to have exact cash as no change is given.

 

There is also a pay phone at the park that you could use to call a taxi service to pick you up.

 

Book A Tour

For a more relaxing way to enjoy the park and skip the reservation requirement, consider taking a tour.

Check out the Muir Woods Tour Of Coastal California Redwoods.

 

Hike Into The Park

Another alternative great for hikers is to take the Marin Public Transit Route 61 or 61F and get off at the Mountain Home Inn at Panoramic Hwy and Edgewood.

 

There you can get onto the Panoramic Trail and hike to the Canopy View Trail to Muir Woods. This is a 1.5-mile one-way hike.

 

You still have to pay the park entrance fee if you enter on foot. Biking is not allowed in Muir Woods National Monument.

Cost Of Muir Woods National Monument Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$15 – per adult age 16 and older, kids are free

Reservation Fee:

$9 – parking reservation per vehicle OR

$3.50 – one-way shuttle reservation per adult 16 and over, kids are free

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Girl hugging redwood tree - national parks without reservations

Shenandoah National Park Virginia

Shenandoah National Park is a great park to get away from city life on the East Coast and immerse yourself in nature.

Why Visit Shenandoah National Park?

Shenandoah National Park provides beautiful mountain views, waterfalls, and hiking opportunities.

Our family got the thrill of seeing a momma bear and her baby cubs on the scenic drive of this park.

What Reservations Are Required In Shenandoah National Park in 2023?

Park entrance reservations are not required in the 2023 season. However, reservations are required for hikes on Old Rag Mountian due to high visitation in this area.

This reservation system is an extension of the pilot program that was started in 2022 to protect the ecosystem surrounding Old Rag Mountain.

Old Rag day-use tickets will be required to hike the Ridge Trail, Saddle Trail, and Ridge Access Trail.

Old Rag Mountain reservations will be required from March 1 through November 20.

Park Entrance Reservations:

None

Reservation Permits:

Yes. An Old Rag day-use ticket must be purchased for hikes on Old Rag Mountain.

Separate Park Experience Reservations:

None.

How To Get Shenandoah National Park Reservations

Advance and last-minute day use tickets will be available at 10:00 am EST on Recreation.gov. Access to the trails is available for the ticket date only.

Every member of your party must have their own individual ticket to hike. Even children have to have tickets to access this area. You will need a photo ID.

2023 Schedule To Book Reservations For Old Rag Mountain Shenandoah National Park

There are 3 different reservation windows to snag a ticket to hike Old Rag.

Advance Old Rag Tickets:

Half of the available tickets are released 30 days in advance of the hike date at 10:00 am EST on Recreation.gov.

Last Minute Old Rag Tickets:

The remaining half of the tickets to hike Old Rag Mountain are released 5 days in advance of the hike date at 10:00 am EST on Recreation.gov.

Day Of Hike Old Rag Tickets:

If there are any remaining tickets left after the 30-day and 5-day reservation windows, they will be released on the day of the hike.

Park phone and internet service are very limited, so consider checking for tickets outside of the park before you enter for the day.

How To Hike Old Rag In Shenandoah National Park Without A Reservation

The availability of the Old Rag Mountain hike without a reservation is tricky. There are no hours early or late that allow you to complete this hike without a reservation.

 

Even if you have a backcountry camping permit in the Old Rag Mountain area, the park is still requiring a ticket to hike.

 

At the time of writing this, I haven’t found a tour that includes this hike. Often taking a commercial tour is a loophole to not needing a reservation.

 

Your best bet may be to search for any leftover Old Rag reservations on the morning of your hike.

Cost Of Shenandoah National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$30 – good for 7 consecutive days

Reservation Fee:

$1 – per person Old Rag day-use ticket

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Mountains of Shenandoah National Park - national park permit reservations

Zion National Park Utah

Zion is our family’s favorite of the Utah national parks, and a must-see.

Why Visit Zion National Park?

Zion’s stunning scenic drives, river-carved canyons, and epic hiking opportunities make it one of the most popular national parks.

This first national park in the state of Utah is also one of the more crowded parks.

What Reservations Are Required In Zion National Park in 2023?

To help control congestion in Zion’s parking areas and roads, there is a mandatory shuttle system in place within the park along Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

No private cars are allowed along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive during the shuttle season from March 11 through November 26 and the holiday season in December 2023.

Check the Zion National Park website for more info on shuttle times.

The good news is that you no longer need a reservation, ticket, or permit to ride the national park shuttle.

The shuttle is free to ride and first come, first served from the parking areas.

Also, no park entrance reservations are needed for Zion in 2023.

Angels Landing Permit

A permit reservation is required in 2023 to hike Angels Landing, which is one of the most popular trails and thrilling hikes in the park.

Our family’s favorite hike in Zion is The Narrows and no reservation is needed still for this hike. It’s a great alternative to Angels Landing if you don’t score a permit.

Park Entrance Reservations:

None

Reservation Permits:

Yes. A Permit is needed to hike Angels Landing.

Separate Experience Reservations:

Yes. Zion reservations are needed for Angels Landing.

How To Get Zion National Park Reservations

Angels Landing is a lottery-style permit system pilot program to control the number of daily hikers on this popular trail.

To apply for the Angels Landing permit lottery, visit Recreation.gov to apply to the lottery window that matches your visit dates.

The advance permit lottery windows are open for 20 days, and then you will be notified 5 days after the window closes if you won the permit to hike.

In the application, you can pick from 7 different dates and times for your hike.

2023 Schedule To Reserve Angels Landing Hike Zion National Park

Advance Permit Lottery Angels Landing

Most of the permits are issued in advance at 8:00 am MST on Recreation.gov.

  • Book January 1 to January 20: for hiking dates March 1 to May 31
  • Book April 1 to April 20: for hiking dates June 1 to August 31
  • Book July 1 to July 20: for hiking dates September 1 to November 30

Last Minute Permit Lottery Angels Landing

If you didn’t get a permit in the advance lottery, you could try the day before your hike again to get a permit for Angels Landing at Recreation.gov.

You can apply the day before your hike between the hours of 12:01 am and 3:00 pm MST.

Permits will be issued at 4:00 via email.

How To Do Angels Landing Hike Zion National Park Without A Reservation

The only loophole to hiking Zion National Park Angels Landing without a permit is to find a commercial guide that offers tours.

 

Check out this Angels Landing Summit Guided Hike With Permit!

Cost Of Zion National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$35 – per vehicle for 7 consecutive days

Reservation Fee:

$6 – fee to apply for permit, good for 6 people

$3 – per person permit if you get it

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Rock canyon in Zion National Park

Yosemite National Park California

Why Visit Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite is known for its breathtaking granite domes and gushing waterfalls.

The Yosemite Valley is one of the most picturesque locations in the world, and it’s worth the trip to see it in person.

The issue is that it is an extremely popular park and can be overcrowded during the peak summer season of May-September and during events like the February Fire Fall phenomenon.

What Reservations Are Required In Yosemite National Park?

New for 2023, Yosemite National Park entrance reservations are no longer needed except for during the annual Horsetail Fall or Yosemite Firefall Event.

Half Dome Permits are required for visitors that plan to hike during peak park season when the cables are installed for this popular hike.

This is often the end of May through mid-October.

When Do You Need Reservations For Yosemite National Park Entrance?

Yosemite National Park reservation requirements are only during February 2023 weekends for the annual Yosemite Firefalls event.

A reservation is required to drive into the park 24 hours a day during this event.

Here are the weekends in February 2023 when Yosemite reservations are required for the Horsetail Falls Festival: 2/10-2/12, 2/17-2/19, and 2/24-2/26.

Last year entrance reservations were required throughout the peak season, so this is great news for visitors in 2023!

Park Entrance Reservations:

Yes, only during weekends in February 2023

Reservation Permits:

Yes. Permits are not needed for park entrance but are required for specific park activities like hiking Half Dome during peak season (see more below).

Separate Experience Reservations:

Yes. The annual Fire Fall event requires a park entrance reservation. A park permit is required to hike Half Dome.

How To Get Yosemite National Park Reservations

Reservations for the Yosemite National Park Firefall Event are available at Recreation.gov. Half of the event reservations go on sale on January 13, 2023, at 8 am PT.

The remaining half of the reservations for the Firefalls go on sale two days before your visit date at 8 am PT.

For example, if you are arriving on 2/17, you would reserve the morning of 2/15.

You only need one reservation per vehicle, and the ID of the person who made the reservation is required to be shown at the entrance.

Yosemite is one of our favorite national parks and is worth all of the effort to visit. The Yosemite Valley is simply breathtaking!

Tip To Visit Without Yosemite National Park Reservations

There are still a few tricks to enter Yosemite without a reservation.

 

Check often for cancellations or consider visiting Monday through Thursday instead when reservations aren’t required.

 

A great hack to still enter the park on Fire Fall weekends, even if you didn’t get a park reservation, is to take the YARTS Bus.

 

The YARTS Bus is a great workaround to enter the park on public transportation, and you don’t need a reservation for the park.

 

The Yosemite National Park entrance fee is also included in the bus fee.

 

The bus picks up at many hotels and nearby campgrounds, so it is easy to hop on.

 

Just make sure to get bus tickets as soon as possible because this will be a popular choice to get into the park.

 

How To Get A Yosemite Half Dome Permit in 2023

Looking to hike Half Dome during your trip? You will need a permit when the cables are installed.

 

Check the park page to verify the dates for your visit year, but this is usually late May to mid-October.

 

If you are a day hiker, then you will apply for your permit on Recreation.gov, which is a lottery system.

If you are spending the night as a backpacker, then you would apply with your wilderness permit.

 

Part of the 2023 Half Dome permits are available through a preseason lottery. Apply on Recreation.gov from 3/1-3/31.

 

If you don’t get a permit in the preseason lottery, you can try again for a permit 2 days prior to your visit date, in what the park refers to as daily lotteries.

 

For example, if you plan to hike on Wednesday, you can apply through the daily lottery on Monday until 4 pm PST and will be notified Monday night if you got the permit.

 

A tip to increase your chances of getting a Half Dome Permit is to check the website for when the least busy Half Dome days are.

 

For example, weekdays in late August are easier to get a permit than a weekend in June.

Cost Of Yosemite National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular Yosemite National Park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$35 – good for 7 days

Park Reservation Fee:

$2 – good for 7 days

Half Dome Permit Fee:

$10 – permit application fee (non-refundable)

$10 – fee for the actual permit, assuming you get one (refundable by noon the day before your hike)

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Yosemite Valley with waterfall - visit national parks with no reservation

Carlsbad Caverns National Park New Mexico

New Mexico’s only national park is a stunner but also very popular.

Why Visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park?

Carlsbad Caverns may be the most beautiful cave. Our family also thinks Luray Caverns in Virginia is right up there, but it is tough to beat Carlsbad.

This enormous cave system can be explored on your own or on a ranger-guided tour depending on what you prefer.

What Reservations Are Required For Carlsbad Caverns National Park in 2023?

For the 2023 season, timed entry reservations are required to visit Carlsbad Caverns.

Reservations must be purchased in advance, and entrance tickets are purchased onsite.

Park Entrance Reservations:

Yes. A timed entry reservation is required.

Reservation Permits:

None

Separate Experience Reservations:

Yes. Tickets are required for the King’s Palace tour. This is in addition to the entrance fee.

How To Get Carlsbad Caverns Reservations

To go inside of Carlsbad Caverns in 2023, a timed entrance reservation is required for all members of your party, including children.

Each reservation has a one-hour window to arrive and enter the cave. You can stay in the cavern as long as you wish.

Be sure to download/save or print your reservation ticket, as the internet is poor at the park.

You can choose to reserve a self-guided tour or a ranger-guided tour as your reservation. Note that currently, only the King’s Palace Tour is being offered as a guided option.

Reservations open 30 days in advance at 5:00 am MST on Recreation.gov. They will remain available until all time slots are taken.

All reservations must be made by 5:00 am MST on the day of your visit. They do sell out, so the earlier you can book it, the better.

How To Visit Carlsbad Caverns Without A Reservation

You can visit the surface of Carlsbad Caverns without a reservation.

 

There is, unfortunately, no waitlist or workaround to enter the cave without a reservation.

 

You must have either a self-guided or ranger-guided Carlsbad Cavern tour reservation to explore the cave.

 

Surface activities you can enjoy without having a reservation include hiking trails, the visitor center, and the bat flight program.

 

A can’t-miss activity is viewing thousands of bats entering and exiting the cave at dawn and dusk.

Cost Of Carlsbad Caverns Reservations And Entrance Fee

Park Entrance Fee:

$15 – per person age 16 and up, kids free

Self-Guided Reservation Fee:

$1 – per person (same for adults and children)

Ranger-Guided King’s Palace Tour:

$8 – adults 16 and over

$4 – kids over 4 years old (under 4 not allowed)

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Mom and girl playing catch.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Nevada

Red Rock Canyon Nevada is a natural paradise right outside of the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.

Why Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area?

Looking to add a little nature to your next trip to Vegas? Red Rock Canyon is a beautiful area with scenic drives, horseback riding, hiking, biking, and climbing just a short drive from the city.

What Reservations Are Required In Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in 2023?

To control congestion on the park’s popular Scenic Drive, timed entry reservations are required for the 2023 season from October 1 through May 31 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm PST.

Our favorite part of Red Rock Canyon was the Scenic Drive. It is worth the effort to get the reservation!

Park Entrance Reservations:

Yes. Timed-entry reservation is required for park entry.

Reservation Permits:

Yes. An entrance reservation is required.

Separate Experience Reservations:

None

How To Get Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Reservations

Visit Recreation.gov to reserve your park entry reservation for visit dates between October 1 to May 31.

Both advance and last-minute reservation windows are available.

Reservations are only good for 1 day, and you will need separate reservations for each day of your trip.

You have a 1-hour arrival window to use your entry reservation. You are also allowed to arrive up to 30 minutes before your arrival window.

There is no Redrock Canyon Scenic Drive re-entry.

You will need a new reservation on a different day to return. Once inside the park, you can stay as long as you like.

Advance Vehicle Reservation

Advance reservations are available on a rolling window 30 days ahead of your visit date on Recreation.gov.

Vehicle reservations are released at 7:00 am PST.

An example is if I wanted to visit the park in late June on 6/28, I would need to reserve 30 days in advance on 5/29 at 7:00 am PST.

Last-Minute Vehicle Reservation

If you didn’t score an advance vehicle reservation, you could try again for a last-minute reservation 2 days before your visit date at 7:00 am PST.

How To Visit Red Rock Canyon Without A Reservation

Didn’t get a Red Rock Canyon reservation? No worries!

 

Arrive Early Or Late

You can enter the park early before the reservation time period begins.

 

Double-check the park hours during your visit to verify when the park opens.

 

At the time of writing this, the park is open daily at 6:00 am PST, and a reservation isn’t required until 8:00 am PST.

 

Also, except for November- February, you can arrive after 5:00 pm to skip needing a reservation.

The park is open until 7:00 or later from March through October.

 

Note that the visitor center closes early, but the park is open later. Always verify current hours.

 

Arrive By Bike Or On Foot

If you arrive on foot or by bike, a timed reservation is not required. The park would be a great scenic bike ride as well.

 

Book A Tour

Most commercial tours don’t require a park reservation to enter Red Rock Canyon. Check out a relaxing guided bus tour.

 

Another fun option could be an electric bike tour. Always double-check that park entry reservation is included in tours.

Cost Of Red Rock Canyon Reservations And Entrance Fee

It is important to note that the cost of national park reservations or national park permits is in addition to the regular national park entrance fee.

Park Entrance Fee:

$20 – per vehicle

Reservation Fee:

$2 – non-refundable reservation fee

Looking to visit more parks this year? Save money with an America The Beautiful annual pass to the national parks.

Scenic Drive Red Rocks Canyon - national parks reservations

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Looking to visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park? There are some changes for 2023.

Why Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a gorgeous mountain paradise on the East Coast.

This park features mountain streams, waterfalls, and loads of black bears. It’s known for its foggy mountain vistas.

What Reservations Are Required In Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is also the most visited national park in the US, making crowd control necessary.

New for 2023, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is requiring a Smokies Parking Tag.

The parking tag program begins on March 1.

Park entrance reservations are not required, but all vehicles need to purchase a Great Smoky Mountains National Park parking tag to park anywhere in the park boundaries.

We love the hiking opportunities, bears, and mountain views in this breathtaking park.

It is worth the effort to get your parking pass and go check it out!

Park Entrance Reservations:

None

Permits:

Yes. Vehicle parking tag.

Separate Experience Reservations:

None

How To Get A Great Smoky Mountains National Park Parking Tag

There is no park entrance fee at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but there is a fee for the parking tag.

You can purchase the tag online or at the park.

If you are driving through the park or parking for less than 15 minutes in one spot, a parking tag is not required.

National park annual passes don’t count as a parking tag.

The purchased Great Smoky Mountains parking pass must match the vehicle license plate and can’t be used on other vehicles.

In Person Tags

You can purchase in-person vehicle parking tags at any of the Smoky national park visitor centers or at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center.

You can also purchase parking tags at any of the park’s automated fee machines.

Online

You can purchase Great Smoky Mountains parking tags online up to 6 months in advance at Recreation.gov.

The tag will need the date of your visit and your license plate number.

Then print the parking tag and bring it with you to the park. There is no way to print the tag at the park.

Annual parking tags also have a mail option by purchasing through Great Smoky Mountains Association.

This is only available for annual tags.

Cost Of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Reservations And Entrance Fee

You can choose a parking tag that works best for the length of time you will visit the park.

There are daily, weekly, and annual parking tags available.

Park Entrance Fee:

Free

Parking Tag Fee:

$5 – daily parking tag

$15 – weekly parking tag

$40 – annual parking tag

Mountains and lookout tower Great Smoky Mountains National Park - national park reservations

Check Out These National Parks To Visit Instead With No Reservations Required

Is your heart not set on a specific park to visit? Consider visiting a different park that doesn’t require park reservations!

Many popular national parks like Grand Canyon National Park and Yellowstone National Park don’t require entrance reservations in 2023.

Read on to find out which other national parks our family has visited and loved with no reservations needed.

Instead Of Red Rock Canyon Visit Valley Of Fire State Park

Did you know that Valley Of Fire State Park is very similar in feel and beauty to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area?

This gorgeous state park is also a close trip from Las Vegas, and you don’t need a reservation to enter.

Don’t miss checking out the petroglyphs. Our family always loves finding them while hiking. Valley Of Fire is simply incredible!

Instead Of Glacier Visit North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park in Northern Washington is a bit of a hidden gem in the national park system.

It’s a great place to enjoy scenic snow-capped mountains and unreal-colored glacial lakes with fewer crowds.

No reservations are needed to visit North Cascades, and it can be a great alternative to busy Glacier National Park.

Instead Of Rocky Mountain Visit Lassen National Park

To skip entrance reservations but still enjoy stunning snow-covered mountain peaks with incredible lakes, check out Lassen National Park.

This rural Northern California park is another hidden gem in the national park system.

We were impressed with the many volcanic features in this park, including bubbling mud pots and steam vents.

It’s every bit as scenic as Rocky Mountain National Park, and in some ways, we enjoyed it even more.

Man and girl viewing bubbling mud pots in Lassen National Park

Instead Of Acadia Visit Olympic National Park

Acadia is our favorite national park, so it is tough for us to recommend any other park.

However, another amazing park with ocean sections and incredible mountain views is Olympic National Park.

Our favorite part of Olympic was the Hoh Rainforest.

The incredible beach rock formations in the park are also a close second. You will love Olympic National Park!

Instead Of Yosemite Visit Kings Canyon National Park

It’s hard to compare any park to the beauty of Yosemite. Kings Canyon is a closeby option with similar granite peaks and scenic valleys.

It’s not far from Yosemite and a much less crowded park with no reservations required.

Our family enjoyed the scenic drives and hiking found in both parks. Check it out!

Instead Of Arches Visit Capital Reef National Park

Arches is an incredible park that everyone should visit at least once.

Our rock-crazy family instantly fell in love with the unique formations found there, but the park gets insanely crowded.

For a less crowded option, check out the lesser-visited Capital Reef National Park. This park is one of the least popular Utah parks simply due to its more rural location.

Capital Reef still sports amazing rock formations, and many that have visited actually enjoy it more than the other Utah parks!

Instead Of Muir Woods Visit Redwood National Park

Muir Woods is incredible if you are looking to see redwoods close to San Francisco.

However, the park is very small and crowded.

We really enjoyed visiting Redwood State and National Parks to view the big trees.

There are many locations along the coast that are part of this park, so the crowds are much more spread out.

Plus, no park reservations are required.

Instead Of Zion Visit Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park has incredible canyons that can serve as a great substitute for Zion with fewer crowds.

It’s the least visited national park in Utah.

Our family enjoyed the views and hiking in the beautiful Utah park. You will be glad you checked it out!

Visiting Less Popular Parks Is Trending Now in National Parks

Looking to visit a park that is a little different? Possibly skip the long lines, crowds, and reservations?

There are many public lands, national forests, and state parks, which may be the best places for your adventure.

Check out these least crowded national parks.

List Of Least Visited National Parks In The Lower 48

These least visited parks are perfect for skipping the crowds and the need for park reservations.

FAQs National Park Reservations

How do you make reservations at national parks?

To make reservations at national parks, visit the national park website to find out when the reservation window opens. Then visit Recreation.gov at the date and time the reservations become available.

Do all national parks require reservation?

No, all national parks don’t require reservations. Only a few of the major national parks need an entry reservation or activity permit in 2023. See the national park website for the most up-to-date information.

Which national parks are requiring reservations?

These national parks are requiring entrance reservations or activity permits in 2023: Rocky Mountain (entrance), Arches (entrance), Glacier (entrance), Acadia (activity), Haleakala (activity), Muir Woods (parking), Shenandoah (activity), Zion (activity), Yosemite (entrance & activity), Carlsbad Caverns (entrance), Smoky Mountains (parking), and Red Rock Canyon (entrance).

How far in advance can you make reservations at national parks?

Check the national park website to see how far in advance you can make reservations at the park you wish to visit. Most parks have a reservation window 2-4 months in advance and then a last-minute window 2 days before the visit date. Not all parks need reservations or permits.

Why are national parks requiring reservations?

Some national parks are requiring reservations for park entrance or specific park activities due to overcrowding. To protect the park environment and also limit traffic and parking issues, some parks require a type of reservation to visit.

Now You Ready To Visit National Parks Without A Reservation!

I hope you feel inspired and encouraged to find a way to enjoy these national parks even if you don’t have a park reservation. There are so many options that you don’t have to miss out on experiencing some of the best scenery in the US. So what are you waiting for? 

River and granite dome in Yosemite National Park

Scott and Van Russell

Scott and Van Russell

Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!

Full-Time RV Family In Front Of Mountains

Hello!

We are so glad you found us. We are Scott, Van & Sissy. We turned our love of travel into a 7 year full-time RV living adventure.

Our goal is to guide you to unique US travel destinations, share RV travel tips, and help you navigate full-time RV living.

Something that makes us different is our unfiltered approach. We choose to share both the benefits and the challenges of traveling and the full-time RVing lifestyle.

Related Articles

Fun Easy RV Halloween Camping Activities

Looking for fun easy Halloween camping activities to enjoy with your family? Traveling or camping during any holiday can be a blast, especially when you have a few easy activities to add to the celebration.

0 Comments

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get The Latest

Stay in the loop with our best travel tips sent directly to your inbox. Your adventure detour awaits!

Wish You Knew The Secrets To Snag Hard To Get Campsites?

Get our FREE guide How To Score Sold-Out Campsites In State And National Parks filled with tips and tricks we use to stay in the best campsites, sent right to your inbox!

Check Your Email! The link to your freebie is in your email from [email protected]. If you don’t see it, check your SPAM & move it into your Inbox.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This