Outdoor Enthusiasts Flock to Online Lottery System as Yosemite Announces More Reopenings

Photo by Pablo Fierro

Outdoor enthusiasts hoping to spend some summer days in Yosemite became the guinea pigs for the National Park Service’s lottery system this week, with droves of people attempting to score a day pass or wilderness permit for the popular park. The park will fully open to the general public, at 50 percent capacity, on June 11 for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Yosemite National Park announced that all primary attractions would open this week, including 800 miles of park trails and popular destinations including Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy. The fantastic news was followed by a caveat – you must apply for the day pass to the park through the park’s website, with only 1,700 vehicle passes approved each day.

While 1,700 passes a day may seem like a lot, it’s a small number considering the 5,000 to 7,000 cars rolling through the park a day during normal years.

“There is no place like Yosemite, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors back,” said Acting Superintendent Cicely Muldoon. “It’s going to be a different kind of summer, and we will continue to work hand in hand with our gateway communities to protect community health and restore access to Yosemite National Park.”

When the website opened on June 9, outdoor enthusiasts flocked to get their chance to receive a day pass, one that you can get at Recreation.gov for just $2 each. The reviews for the lottery system were mixed, with many taking to social media groups to ask questions and, of course, complain. It’s unknown how many people applied the two days before the park’s reopening, and how many have been denied. But considering the online chatter and typical visitation numbers at Yosemite, it’s safe to assume it’s a lot.

With Yosemite National Park becoming akin to the Disneyland of the outdoors, there’s no doubt the park service will have its hands full keeping the crowds at bay. But it’s clear that anyone able to go to the half-full park this summer are in for quite a treat.

Here are all the details of the Park Service’s plan to reopen Yosemite:

  • Anybody hoping to acquire a day-use permit to Yosemite will have to apply at recreation.gov and they would probably be issued 48 hours in advance. People with lifetime or annual passes would have to reserve online as well.
  • Anybody with a camping or wilderness permit will not need to apply for a day-use permit.
  • In order to keep the park around 50 percent capacity, around 3,600 vehicles would be allowed in the park per day, with around 1,900 allowed to stay overnight.
  • There will be crowd-control initiatives at the most popular destinations in the park, such as Lower Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point and Tunnel View. Visitors can expect a different experience in those areas than years prior, although the exact crowd control plans have not yet been outlined.
  • Anybody with permits to hike Half Dome after June 5th will be able to complete the hike. Anybody with reservations before then will not be honored and there are no plans to issue more permits this year.
  • Stores, gas stations, hotels, museums and rental shops will all open with social distancing guidelines. The Ahwahnee hotel and Yosemite Valley Lodge will reopen with full capacity.
  • The 141 campsites at Lower Pines Campground and North Pines Campground will open, along with wilderness camping.
  • Yosemite Valley shuttle buses will not be active when the park opens, with no immediate plan to reopen services.

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