Yosemite has reopened, but you need to make a reservation to visit

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (KFSN) -- After being closed for nearly three months, Yosemite National Park reopened early Thursday, but if you're planning to visit, just know your next trip will come with some restrictions.

Wildflowers and plastic dividers now greet visitors at the highway 41 entrance, but the one big change is that day passes must be purchased online ahead of time.

This will allow park officials to keep the crowds at 50% of normal to help with social distancing.

"If we have about half as many cars and half as many people that's a good starting point. Our reservation system started today and it's gone real well, people are coming in," says Scott Gediman, the park's public affairs officer.

The benefit of limiting visitors means families now have more open space to discover wildlife and everything the park has to offer.

Stanley and Gilda Pierce drove up from San Diego to be among the first visitors Thursday.

The couple enjoyed all the breathtaking sights Yosemite has to offer and just missed coming in contact with one of the park's local residents - a bear.

They enjoyed their experience.

Restrooms as well as some stores, campgrounds, and hotels are open but shuttle buses in Yosemite Valley will remain closed for the remainder of the year.

"For the most part the Visitor Center is open, we're doing ranger programs, all the trails are open. People can bring their bikes and rent bikes so it's an opportunity and we're excited to get things open as much as we can for visitors," says Gediman.

The day-use reservation system may remain in place for a while.

Yosemite is not expected to allow full capacity inside the park until California declares stage four of the pandemic.

And that may not happen until a vaccine has been found.
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