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Yosemite Reinstating Reservation System To Control Summer Crowds

California’s Yosemite National Park announced yesterday that it will reinstate an advanced reservation system, which it has intermittently relied upon during the pandemic, to manage park visitation levels and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread this summer.

“The basic plan is to protect human health and safety and provide as much access as we can,” the park’s superintendent, Cicely Muldoon, said yesterday during a meeting of local government and business leaders.

Muldoon said that large crowds have already been turning up at the park in recent weeks and the tide of travelers looking for an escape to the great outdoors is expected to swell as summer approaches. There is still appreciable concern about COVID-19 being brought in from the places where park visitors originate, particularly given the prevalence of the more-contagious B.1.1.7 variant, which has possibly already become the state’s dominant strain.

So, starting May 21 and continuing through September 30, parkgoers will need to have made day-use reservations in order to enter the park. This rule also extends to annual and lifetime pass holders. Each day-use reservation will be valid for a single vehicle and its occupants for a period of three days.

Visitors who have overnight reservations at hotels and campgrounds inside the park don’t need to make day-use reservations, nor do those with wilderness and Half Dome permits or visitors entering the park via YARTS buses or who are on permitted commercial tours.

Yosemite had implemented a similar day-use reservation system last summer, capping visitation numbers at 50 percent of its usual visitation levels. This summer, however, capacity limits will vary from anywhere between 50 and 90 percent of Yosemite’s normal numbers, based upon the COVID-19 conditions in Mariposa County, located on the park’s western edge. The county is currently in California’s orange tier, which means Yosemite will allow 70 percent of its normal summer levels.

“We think these numbers will allow people to enjoy the park safely,” Muldoon said.

The Mercury News reported that Rocky Mountain National Park and Glacier National Park are putting similar systems in place to control crowding during the peak tourist season. Typically, around 75 percent of Yosemite’s total visitor volume arrives between May and October, according to Travel + Leisure.

Park reservations can be made at starting at 8:00 a.m. on April 21, 2021.

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