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Yosemite may reopen in June, with half the number of visitors, ticketed entry

Yosemite National Park during the time of the coronavirus.
Yosemite Falls, as photographed on April 11. The park has been closed since March 20 and this week outlined a draft plan for reopening.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Yosemite National Park hopes to reopen in early June and limit the number of visitors by half to allow for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Lodgings and some campgrounds would reopen, and day visitors would be required to buy entry tickets in advance of their trips, according to a draft reopening plan presented Tuesday.

The plan weighs how to protect health of the public and Yosemite workers, sustain access to the popular park and help reopen the local economy. It has not yet received federal approval or permission from Gov. Gavin Newsom to enter Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.

“We’re hopeful we can get the park open in a smart enough way that we can keep the park open and not have to go through a seesaw of opening and closing,” Acting Superintendent Cicely Muldoun said during an online presentation to the Yosemite Gateway Partners, a regional group that includes government agencies, nonprofit organizations, Native American tribes, individuals and businesses.

Noting that the majority of visitors come to Yosemite Valley, officials emphasized the need for “flexibility” to close or modify rules at areas that could become overcrowded, such as Tunnel View, Bridal Veil Fall, Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite Village, Curry Village, Glacier Point, Wawona, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and park entrances.

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Highlights of the draft plan include:

— requiring day visitors to make reservations to enter the park at recreation.gov. Overnight visitors and those driving through the park on the east-west Tioga Road would be exempt.

—encouraging visitors to pay $35 entrance fees in advance to avoid contact with park personnel. However, staff members would be on hand at kiosks to accept fees.

—limiting the number of vehicles entering the park to 3,600 per day, about half the number the park received last June. An additional 1,900 vehicles would be allowed in for overnight visitors.

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—reopening the Ahwahnee Hotel and Yosemite Valley Lodge at full capacity; and Curry Village, which offers cabins, tent cabins and standard rooms, at half capacity. Lodging reservations have been canceled through May 28.

—reopening Lower Pines and North Pines campgrounds, which together have 141 sites, as well as back-country campgrounds in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy.

—suspending shuttle service in Yosemite Valley. However, YARTS regional buses that bring visitors into the park would operate, possibly with in increased number of stops, but that isn’t viewed as a substitute for the shuttle.

— modifying food services to keep visitors at a distance, and reopening retail and grocery stores, bicycle and raft rentals, gas stations and the Ansel Adams Gallery.

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—keeping Yosemite Valley public restrooms cleaned twice a day.

—reopening Half Dome cables for hikers by June 5. Permits through June 4 for the famously difficult hiking route have been canceled. Permits for future dates would be honored, but the annual 48-hour lottery would not resume.

The deer, bobcats, coyotes and bears no longer have to deal with the hordes of camera-toting tourist vying to capture nature. They now roam unfettered.

—creating one-way trails and posting signs to remind visitors about social distancing on trails and urge them to wear face coverings.

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Yosemite has been closed since March 20.


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