In a move to head off holiday traffic jams that can make Yosemite National Park look like rush hour on the Santa Monica Freeway, the National Park Service said Monday that it will restrict the number of cars entering Yosemite Valley on Memorial Day weekend and on future holidays.
For the first time in the history of the park, only visitors with proof that they have campground or hotel reservations will be allowed to enter the valley after the first 3,000 cars have arrived. The restrictions will probably be in effect between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Yosemite spokeswoman Lisa Dapprich said.
"In past years, particularly Memorial Day, we've had huge traffic jams, stopping traffic for as much as four hours," Dapprich said.
Last year, 20,600 cars carrying 77,800 visitors entered the valley during the three-day Memorial Day weekend. By comparison, the average number of visitors during the peak summer day is 14,000.
Earlier Restriction Planned
"We figure the valley can hold 3,000 cars for day use, hotels and campgrounds. After that, we'll have to restrict cars to only those with proof of campground or hotel reservations," Dapprich said.
The restrictions will also be in effect the weekend of May 18 and 19, one week before the May 25-27 Memorial Day weekend. Once the 3,000-car limit is reached, park service employees will urge motorists to visit either the Tuolumne Meadows high country along Tioga Road or the southern end of the park, which includes the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias.
There is a free shuttle bus within the valley, but Dapprich said visitors will not be permitted into the parking areas served by the shuttle unless they have hotel or campground reservations.
"This is going to be tried on an experimental basis, and we are hoping that it will make people's experiences at the park on those busy weekends considerably more enjoyable," Dapprich said.
She added that similar restrictions are expected to be in effect for the Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays.