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The "firefall" effect is seen on Yosemite's El Capitan is seen in this Feb. 24 image. Photo by Edward Smith

published on March 1, 2021 - 2:20 PM
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As Covid infection rates stabilize, the National Park Service is ready to ease restraints on the largest tourist destination in Central California.

According to Brooke Smith, public relations director for Visit Yosemite/Madera County, the NPS will end the reservation system at the end of February. It couldn’t come at a better time, as Smith says that thousands of families — especially in California — are planning and booking in order to visit the natural beauties within their own state.

“People are wanting to take road trips and people are looking to these hidden treasures in their backyards,” Smith said. “When Californians are traveling within 120 miles of their home, it usually means that it’s Yosemite and the Sierra Nevadas and the Madera Wine Trail and these wonderful small towns and museums outside of the park.”

Elsewhere, the implementation of the vaccine seems to have bolstered confidence in traveling. According to Hilda Morrison, manager for The Travel Shoppe in Fresno, there’s been a significant increase in bookings for warmer destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, and a higher amount of domestic travel. Interest in theme parks and places like Hawaii are also making a comeback.

Like in the case of Yosemite, Morrison says national parks are highly popular this season.

Since reopening earlier this month after smoke concerns from the Creek Fire, the NPS has placed a limit on the number of visitors allowed in the park. This summer before the fire, reservations were also required. This resulted in drops in visitors from the usual 8,000 per day to approximately 1,750.

The pandemic itself was challenge enough, but with visitor constraints and wildfires, Smith described 2020 as feeling like three years of bad events rolled into one.

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