Yosemite National Park to reopen to limited visitors this summer

Yosemite National Park will require advanced reservations for day visitors during the peak summer season to limit the number of visitors and allow social distancing in the nearly 1,200-square-mile federal preserve amid the pandemic.

Under the new rules, advance reservations will be required for day-use visitors who enter Yosemite from May 21 to September 30, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The park’s superintendent, Cicely Muldoon, said large crowds already have been coming to the park in recent weeks, and there are still cases of COVID-19 spreading in California as well as other states and countries from where visitors are coming.

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“The basic plan is to protect human health and safety and provide as much access as we can,” Muldoon said Thursday during a meeting with government and business leaders of the communities surrounding the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park and Glacier National Park are putting in place similar rules, which have been encouraged for decades by environmental groups but resisted by gateway communities whose economies depend heavily on tourism.

A similar day-use reservation system was in place last summer. It resulted in Yosemite’s visitor rates dropping by half. This summer the number of visitors allowed will range from 50% to 90%, or vehicle capacity depending on what levels of COVID-19 are found in Mariposa County on the park’s western edge. Currently, with Mariposa in California’s “moderate” orange tier, Yosemite will allow 70% of normal summer visitation — or about 5,760 vehicles a day. 

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

Reservations can be made at www.recreation.gov beginning at 8 a.m. on April 21. Each day-use reservation is valid for one vehicle for three days. Vehicles that arrive at park entrances after May 21 without reservations will not be admitted.

Due to pandemic concerns, park shuttle buses will not run this summer. Some, but not all campgrounds in the park will be open, with 585 sites available starting July 1, compared to 247 last year.

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