Yosemite National Park is turning to a lottery system for early reservation access to North Pines Campground, a popular site in the heart of Yosemite Valley with views of Half Dome looming above it.

The lottery opened on January 18 and will run until February 6 on Recreation.gov. It costs $10 to enter and gives lottery winners (640 randomly selected people) access to early reservations in North Pines for arrival dates between July 21 through September 14, 2022.

The lottery gives winners a better chance of securring their preferred dates in peak summer season before bookings open to the general public.

Read more: Rocky Mountains is the latest US National Park to expand its reservation system

Camping in Yosemite Woods
Yosemite has a number of reservation campsites © Robert Holmes / Getty Images

Winners will be notified on February 10 and the early access reservation system will run between February 18 and March 10. Each winner will be assigned a time slot during which they can make one reservation for up to seven nights. Leftover reservations will then open to the public on the 15th of each month.

The goal of the lottery is to "create a better experience that reduces confusion and frustration for the highly competitve reservation process" the park service said.

"The demand for reservations in Yosemite campgrounds through Recreation.gov far exceeds availability, especially in Yosemite Valley during the busiest times of the year. This has been the case for decades and demand has only increased over time.

"While the lottery does not guarantee your desired dates or campsite will be available, it limits the number of users competing simultaneously for campsites during peak-season dates," officials explained.

Read more: How to spend your first visit to Yosemite National Park

Meanwhile, Yosemite is considering a congestion-management plan, including timed entry, as officials warn that access to parts of the park could be restricted this year with major renovation and construction projects taking place.

"People will notice it for sure," Frank Dean, president of the non-profit Yosemite Conservancy, said via Mercury News "They should try to avoid weekends and holidays if they can. Plan ahead. Go to a less-used part of the park. It’s beautiful to get on a trail away from the crowds."

Read more: Yosemite vs Yellowstone - which national park is best for you?

Projects include the construction of a new visitor center, major road repairs and upgrades to campsites and facilities. These tasks have been on Yosemite's to-do list for years but are only possible now through funding made available via the Great American Outdoors Act. The landmark law passed in 2020 puts as much as $9.5 billion toward tackling deferred maintenance at US national parks over the next four years.

Many national parks already have new systems in place requiring reserved time slots to enter at peak hours. Yosemite parks planners will reveal details of their own system for summer 2022 in the coming weeks.

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