It’s been over two months since Yosemite National Park closed its gates to the public due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, the world-famous park averaging over 4 million visitors each year has officially reopened to limited visitors.
Anyone with an existing wilderness permit reservation and to those with an existing Half Dome permit will be able to enter Yosemite June 5th. No one else will be able to visit the park until California reaches Phase 3 of its reopening plan, and even then visitors will have to apply for a lottery online to gain access.
Officials have outlined their plan to open the park with protocols in order to keep it at 50 percent capacity, allowing visitors, park rangers and nearby communities better opportunities to practice social distancing. This summer in Yosemite is going to be much different than it’s ever seen.
“On any given day, I think the ability to wake up in the morning and decide to go to the park is not really an option this year,” said a Yosemite official during a video call with the Yosemite Gateway Partners this week.
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.
Yosemite remains one of the most popular national parks in the United States, with yearly averages hovering around 4 to 5.2 million visitors. Typically, the park can handle 18,710 people at one time before traffic begins to slow, and the park can accommodate a peak visitation number of approximately 20,100 visitors per day. That’s about 5,000 to 7,000 cars rolling through the park a day.
“While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities,” said NPS.
This year, the few people who are able to see the beauty of Yosemite will be a rare bunch.