Visitor Access Management Plan

 
Two lines of cars at a standstill on crowded Yosemite Valley roadways.
Traffic at a standstill on crowded Yosemite Valley roadways.
 
 

Overview

Ensuring world class experiences, a welcoming environment for all visitors, and protection of nationally significant resources is Yosemite National Park’s primary and daily focus. Due to an increase in day-use visitation and changing use patterns, providing for and managing visitor use has been an increasingly complex issue that impacts both park resources and the visitor experience.

The purpose of this plan is to evaluate how different management strategies, including reservation systems, could help meet long-term resource and visitor experience goals. This will be accomplished by engaging in a transparent civic and stakeholder engagement process to discuss and identify key issues and opportunities.

The park also plans to build on lessons learned during the reservation systems from 2020-2022, while considering a range of strategies to address crowding and congestion and improve the visitor experience and resource conditions within the park. We piloted reservation systems for the last three summers. In 2020 and 2021, the park piloted a reservation system due to the pandemic. In 2022, the park implemented a “peak hours” reservation system due to extensive construction that was going on throughout the park. Data gathered during this three-year period will help inform park management on a range of alternatives to provide for the highest quality visitor access in the future. 

As was announced in November, Yosemite will not implement a reservation system for the summer of 2023. However, the park will require reservations for the last three weekends of February 2023. 

Horsetail Fall: February 2023 Reservation Requirements

Horsetail Fall can glow orange when it's backlit by sunset, which can make it appear to be on fire. This unique lighting effect happens only on evenings with a clear sky when the waterfall is flowing and when the sun is at the right angle in mid– to late February. This event attracts many visitors to a small area, causing traffic congestion, parking issues, safety concerns, and impacts to natural and cultural resources. In order to manage this event, a reservation will be required for entry to Yosemite February 10–12, February 17–19, and February 24–26, 2023.

Planning Process and Timeline

The initial public comment period for the Visitor Access Management Plan is December 9, 2022–February 3, 2023.

This planning effort is in the first phase of a three-phase process. The anticipated schedule for project milestones and additional opportunities for public review and input are as follows:

Phase 1 (Tentative Dates: October 2022August 2023):

  • Define Purpose, Need, and Issues
  • Document existing conditions, review data from previous studies
  • Explore desired conditions
  • Determine relevant indicators and thresholds
  • Engage with public stakeholders on issues and values (winter 2022/2023)
  • Public and stakeholder review of draft strategies (tentatively summer 2023)

Phase 2 (Tentative Dates: September 2023May 2024):

  • Explore viable concepts and strategies
  • Assemble concepts and strategies into preliminary alternatives
  • Preliminary impact analysis
  • Visitor capacity analysis

Phase 3 (Tentative Dates: May 2024December 2024):

  • Confirm alternatives for analysis
  • Develop draft plan and initiate compliance
  • Public and stakeholder review of draft plan (tentatively spring 2023)
  • Complete consultation and compliance
  • Finalize plan and decision documentation

Public Outreach

Engaging with the public is an important part of this planning process and is essential when exploring management alternatives. Park managers will accept and integrate feedback received from the public during this open comment period. Comments gathered during this period will help the park identify issues important to managing Yosemite visitor access in the future.

How can I participate?

Step 1. Learn about the issues

On this page you can review a storymap and other materials (as they become available) to help you learn about the park, the planning process, and the issues that this plan is designed to address.

Step 2. Join the Conversation!

We know that your experience of Yosemite National Park is important! Whether you come to the park every week, or have yet to visit, we want to hear from you!

Public Meetings

Join park staff and planners to learn about the plan. There will be a virtual public meeting on January 17, 2023, at which park staff will provide an overview of the planning process, describe how to provide public comments, and host a question-and-answer session. National Park Service (NPS) staff will answer your questions to the best of their knowledge. Please note, this meeting is not intended to record your comments (those must be submitted online).

This moderated meeting will take place using the Teams Live platform and can be accessed using the link below. This meeting can be accessed via web browser or Teams application on your computer or phone. A closed captioning service will be provided for those joining via internet browser or app.

EVENT

DATE

TIME

Virtual Public Meeting

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

4:00 pm to 5:30 pm PT


Questions to consider when submitting comments:

  1. What experiences in Yosemite are most important to you?
  2. What have been the best parts of your experiences in Yosemite? What have been the worst parts?
  3. What management practices or strategies has the park used to effectively address crowding and congestion?
  4. What barriers get in the way of enjoying or visiting Yosemite?

Submit written comments online through February 3, 2023.

 
Visit our keyboard shortcuts docs for details
Duration:
1 hour 34 minutes

On January 17, 2023, Yosemite hosted the first public meeting for the Visitor Access Management Plan. This is a recording of the meeting in which the public was able to learn about the plan and how to get involved in the planning process.

 

Documents

Documents will be posted here as they become available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this plan needed?  

The park has seen increasing impacts to natural and cultural resources, diminished quality of visitor experiences, increased visitor and staff safety concerns, and a heavy strain on the park’s facilities and ability to perform daily operations.  The NPS believes that managed access and related strategies are needed in high-demand areas where other strategies have not been sufficient to ensure high-quality experiences, visitor safety, and resource protection.  

What is managed access? 

Managed access is a suite of tools that help pace the timing and volume of visitation into areas to optimize access, ensure quality experiences, and protect resources. Examples of managed access include reservation systems, timed and ticketed entry, campground reservations, and more. Some examples of managed access strategies that have been in place for many years include wilderness and Half Dome permits. Managed access and related strategies are not a standalone solution. This plan will carefully evaluate many different tools and techniques that would be most effective to help Yosemite improve how visitors get to and experience the park’s significant resources and features.     

How will the plan be developed? 

This process will leverage the park’s extensive planning, including previously identified capacities for many areas of the park and related infrastructure updates (e.g. intersection realignments, meadow protection curbing, parking additions, and circulation improvements). This process will consider key issues related to visitor experiences, natural and cultural resource protection, and vehicular crowding and congestion. The planning process will provide recommendations for supporting high-quality public access to the park while providing positive visitor experiences and protection of natural and cultural resources into the future.  

When will public input occur? 

The first opportunity for public input will be from December 9, 2022 through February 3, 2023, when we’ll initiate a civic engagement series to solicit public and community feedback about strategies for managing visitor access in order to inform this process. This will be the first of multiple opportunities over the two-year planning process for the public and stakeholders to share input on how Yosemite should, if at all, manage access in the future. We are committed to a transparent civic and stakeholder engagement process. When it comes to visitor use management decisions at NPS, we know that engagement is about mobilizing people to do the hard work of making change—together. Yosemite is committed to engaging with all stakeholders—including gateway communities, partners, members of the public, and state, local, and tribal governments —to identify solutions, and to conduct compliance and planning processes. 

StoryMap

 

Last updated: January 23, 2023

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