Yosemite's About to Reopen -- but if You Want in, You Better Act Fast

California's hottest reservation is at El Capitan.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is now taking reservations. | My Good Images/Shutterstock
Yosemite National Park is now taking reservations. | My Good Images/Shutterstock

Much to the chagrin of the animals who have been on extended spring break during its closure, California's immensely popular Yosemite National Park is finally re-opening its gates to visitors on Thursday, June 11. But don't start packing the ol' Airstream just yet: As with all COVID-era travel, things will run a little differently.

Yosemite -- one of the most popular and crowded of the national parks -- will only be opening to 50% capacity, and entrance is mostly limited to day use (5am-11pm). What's more, the home of El Capitan and the Muir Trail is taking a cue from Rocky Mountain National Park and switching to a reservation-only system. For once, the hottest reservation in California won't have anything to do with overpriced food.

Want in? Better move fast: Book a reservation for $35 via recreation.gov. In the first phase of reopening, 1,700 vehicles will be allowed in per day, and reservations can be made through July. On July 1, reservations can be made through August. Once made, reservations are good for seven days after the listed date.

MORE: If you miss the window on Yosemite but still want to visit a national park this summer, we’re tracking the re-opening status of all 62, right here.

Most of the park will be fair game, though some areas will be more restricted, including the popular Mist Trail, which is usually thronged with visitors. In a way, this socially distant reopening will allow folks with reservations to see the park as they never have: Namely, without the company of a family of 36 from Iowa schlepping down slippery rocks while screaming at each other.

If you’ve already secured reservations for campsites or lodges, or have pre-existing permits to explore the backcountry or Half Dome, there's no need to score the additional day pass reservation. For a full list of rules and restrictions, visit Yosemite's site.

MORE: Need a place to stay near Yosemite? These Airbnbs are conveniently located near popular national parks.

Thrillist senior travel editor Andy Kryza has leapt over dozens of slow-moving Iowans in his quest for National Park hiking glory. Follow him down misty trails @apkryza