Travel

Yosemite to dump reservation system to enter park. Why it may not be “goodbye” forever.

Love it or hate it, the policy requiring a reservation to enter busy Yosemite National Park is no more.

Park officials announced Tuesday that the contentious crowd-control policy enacted during the first two years of the pandemic and continued a third year because of construction will not be in place next year. The reservation requirement covered the park’s peak summer season, when historically Yosemite has been one of the most-visited sites in the National Park Service.

While the reservation system succeeded at limiting numbers in years when park staffing and services were down because of the coronavirus, it became a sore point for last-minute travelers unable to win admission and gateway communities dependent on the tourist traffic. Others liked the program because it eliminated much of Yosemite’s notorious congestion.

The repeal of the policy, however, does not necessarily mean reservations are gone for good.

Park officials say the suspension of the program provides the opportunity to see what attendance is like in the post-Covid world, take stock of the discontinued reservation system, survey the public and decide how to manage crowds going forward. Reservations have been discussed well before the coronavirus as a long-term means of addressing lines at entrance stations, packed parking lots and gridlocked roads, especially in Yosemite Valley.

“We want to build on what we’ve learned the last three summers on managed access,” said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. “Our goal in the end is to basically come up with a plan that sustains an outstanding visitor experience and protects the park resources.”

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.