This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Could a Hawaii national park's solution to overcrowding at a too popular destination be coming to an overcrowded Utah attraction such as Angels Landing or the Delicate Arch?
Officials at Hawaii's Haleakala National Park announced this week that visitors in personal or rental vehicles wishing to view sunrise at the top of the park will need to make viewing reservations ahead of time.
The online reservation system will go live Thursday. The cost for a reservation will be $1.50 per car. Reservations will be required beginning February 1, 2017. They will be made at http://www.recreation.gov.
Park officials said the reservation system is needed to ensure visitor safety, protect natural and cultural resources and provide a quality visitor experience at the summit during the sunrise hours from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.
As someone who has witnessed a sunrise at Haleakala, I can testify that it is one of nature's most beautiful sights. That said, even years ago, the parking area at the top of the volcano was crowded.
The four summit parking lots serving sunrise viewing hold approximately 150 vehicles. Vehicles regularly exceed 300 per sunrise. According to a park service release, visitors then park on road shoulders or on the upbound lane of Crater Roads, blocking emergency vehicle access and damaging park infrastructure, vegetation and critical habitat for endangered species.
Nothing like this has been proposed at Zion or Arches, which regularly have huge crowds at popular hiking spots. Zion, to a certain extent, solved the problem with a shuttle system that operates much of the year.
That said, some reservation systems are in place in Utah for backcountry sites at Canyonlands National Park or summer cave tours at Timpanogos Cave National Monument.
But there are times when all the parking spaces are taken at the Zion Visitor Center and when cars back up at Arches due to a lack of space.