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Yosemite drops need to save a spot to access the park
Hikers make their way up the trail to Vernal Fall in Yosemite National Park (DENNIS WYATT/The Journal).

You will no longer need a reservation to visit Yosemite National Park.

The National Park Service established a reservation system at many parks in 2020 to reduce overcrowding due to the need to enforce COVID-19 protocols.

It required all visitors during the peak period of May to September to secure one of a limited number of day use passes to visit the 1,169-square-mile park even  for those that had purchased season passes.

The system also allowed the park to deal with extensive construction projects in Yosemite Valley as well as address an ongoing issue of overcrowding.

Yosemite National Park officials announced the decision to drop the reservation system earlier this month.

There have been times in the past two decades — even without construction work on the valley floor where more than 90 percent of park visitors spend their entire visit — when traffic congestion was worse than in downtown San Francisco during rush hour.

Critics have argued for years that allowing such overuse creates issues for the park’s ecological system and dilutes the overall park experience.

Those on the other side of coin favoring not capping vehicles allowed into the park as they believe the National Park Service shouldn’t be in the business of blocking access to public lands.

The dropping of the reservation system doesn’t mean access restrictions won’t ever be in place. The park — before the reservation system was in place — would close access at the three main entrances when the valley was determined to be full.

That practice will continue.

A few years back officials looked at options such a banning all private vehicles from the park.

They envisioned a bus shuttle system from large parking lots outside the park boundaries to ferry people into Yosemite Valley and other locations within the park.

Yosemite in 2021 had 3.29 million visitors.

Attendance peaked in 2016 with 5.03 million visitors. There were 2.02 million visitors in 2019 during the first year reservations were required.

Access to Yosemite National Park requires paying a $35 entrance fee per vehicle that is good for seven days. There are also an annual pass available.