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'The Summer To End All Summers': Glacier, Rocky Mountain Parks To Require Reservations

Jacob W. Frank
Parking at Glacier National Park's Logan Pass.

As more Americans get vaccinated, they're finally preparing for long-delayed vacations. But if they want to visit some big-name national parks in the West, they may need a reservation.

Glacier, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain national parks all recently announced they're making visitors book ahead to enter the parks or to visit iconic destinations, such as Glacier's Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

The moves come as the National Park Service expects record visitation at many of its most popular sites.

"I think everybody is assuming this is going to be the summer to end all summers," said Sarah Lundstrum, who works in and around Glacier National Park for the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association. 

Lundstrum says Going-to-the-Sun Road's ticketed entry system is an experiment in easing long lines and congestion as Glacier's visitation skyrockets.

"This is an answer, and it's the answer we're using this summer, but be patient because it's going to take a while to work out the bumps," she said. "And I think we can learn from this summer and do more and better in the future."

Plus, Lundstrum added, it beats spending "four hours sitting in your car just to find out you don't get to go in. This way, if you have that reservation and you drive to the park, you're going to get in. The certainty that this creates is pretty great."

Rocky Mountain National Park is implementing a two-tiered, timed-entry reservation system, while Yosemite will require advance reservations for day-use visitors to curb crowds due to COVID-19. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.