Do you need Yosemite reservations in 2023?

What You Need To Know About Visiting Yosemite In 2023

Reservations will not be required to visit Yosemite National Park in 2023. Great news, right? Let’s see what changed.

Over the last three years, Yosemite reservations were required. Yes, beginning with the summer of 2020, the pandemic was the driver. The National Park Service (NPS) did exactly what everyone else had to do: pivot.

Over the past two years, COVID-19 has significantly impacted travel. While much of this impact has been negative, camping has seen a dramatic increase in participation. In 2021, camping accounted for 40% of all leisure trips with more than half of travelers (53%) including camping in some or all of their travel. Leisure travelers, who would otherwise stay home, have utilized camping as a preferred form of travel and many are indicating camping will be part of their plans in 2022 and beyond.

– KOA’s 2022 North American Camping Report

Improving the park infrastructure

As the summer of 2022 came, Yosemite National Park faced unique challenges. The NPS had plans in place to focus on infrastructure and key visitor attractions. In order to ensure these repairs could be made, Yosemite reservations were required. This was a continuation of the reservation system put in place in 2021, when the park saw 3.3 million visitors, and the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic led to increased safety measures.

While the immediate impact of COVID has lessened, the one constant at Yosemite National Park is the congestion, gridlock, bottlenecks, and traffic jams. For over a decade, movement around the park has been aggravating, mood-crushing, exasperating, and a labor-intensive time-consuming process.

The unseen benefit of COVID gave pause to the NPS. They took advantage of the last three summers to take on the hot topic of managed access. It was time to adjust, design, and find a better way to deliver on their promise: to provide a better visitor experience while protecting Yosemite’s natural and cultural resources.

Restoration projects in the park

Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove

What better way to make an impression than with a nod to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias? This project was the first of many. Significant repairs were made to trails, bathrooms, and the boardwalk damaged in a 2021 windstorm. The national park’s whole concept is rooted in Mariposa Grove. The Mariposa Grove holds the distinction of being the first time in our nation’s history the federal government set aside scenic natural areas to be protected for the benefit of future generations.

Thanks to a large-scale restoration project beginning with the Mariposa Grove, a renewed high-quality visitor experience had begun in the shadow of COVID.

Parking upgrades 

Getting around is one thing. Finding a parking spot is a whole other thing to deal with. The NPS added 90 paved parking spaces to the Yosemite Village parking.

Traffic in Yosemite National Park for years has been nothing short of a nightmare. Think about it. Each year, Yosemite National Park waves through over three million visitors. No matter what day it is, that translates to extremely high concentrations of people and cars.

This restoration project targeted extended traffic delays, extremely limited parking, busy trails, and scarce lodging and campground availability. It was typical to sit at entrances for 30 minutes or longer, and that was when reservations were not required! 

Roads in the park

Glacier Point Roadonce a wagon trail, was transformed into a main thoroughfare. With all the traffic comes wear and tear.

The road has been completely repaved and includes roadside parking areas. Tioga Road from Olmsted Point to about two miles east of Tuolumne Meadows received much-needed attention as well.

Again, improved parking around Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows helps ease congestion. 

Traffic points

These roads and intersections in Yosemite Valley come under increased numbers of visitor vehicles, plus there is the return of the shuttle buses in Yosemite Valley.

Expect one-way traffic circulation patterns along both Southside Drive and Northside Drive, with the hope of reduced congestion. Two-way traffic will remain through Curry Village and the Happy Isles Loop.

Shuttle bus stops

Improvements to shuttle stops throughout the park include updates to passenger waiting areas, access surfaces, shelters, curbing, and concrete braking pads at key locations such as the Village Store and Welcome Center, Stop 5 (Valley Visitor Center/Museum), Stops 14 and 20 (Curry Village Parking), Stop 15 (Trailhead Parking/Upper Pines Campground), and Stop 19 (Lower Pines Campground).

These improvements are designed to enhance the overall visitor experience and make it easier to access popular park destinations.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground is closed

A major project to rehabilitate the Tuolumne Meadows Campground is underway. As a result, the campground will be closed until 2024 or 2025 (depending on the length of the construction season, weather delays, etc.). No camping of any kind will be available at Tuolumne Meadows during this time. The backpacker’s campground will also be closed.

This project will fully rehabilitate the campground, including the replacement of water lines, upgrading restrooms, improving accessibility for visitors with disabilities, reorganizing campsites, addressing drainage issues, and replacing picnic tables and fire rings.

Tips for visiting Yosemite

  • Plan with RV LIFE Pro to find points of interest along your route, as well as RV-safe GPS directions.
    • Pack your patience! Millions of people visit Yosemite from April through October. Yosemite Valley is the main destination for most visitors, but there are many places to go in the park.
    • Get in early to avoid traffic congestion.
    • Be a responsible driver, and don’t speed. Pull over to take pictures, and use pullouts to let other cars pass.
    • Visit Yosemite in a way that is fun, memorable, and safe.

    Start planning your trip today

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