Shenandoah National Park in Virginia will soon require hikers to buy tickets to hike Old Rag Mountain, home to the park’s most popular hiking trails.
The park will launch a one-year pilot program March 1, which aims to improve the hiking experience and protect fragile natural resources in the area, according to a news release issued by the National Park Service. The program will require visitors to purchase a day-use ticket to use trails in the Old Rag area, including Saddle, Ridge and Ridge Access.
Tickets will be $1 in addition to entrance fees and must be reserved online at www.recreation.gov, the release said. Buying a ticket does not guarantee a parking spot. Tickets will not be available at the Old Rag fee station.
Hikers must reserve their tickets ahead of time for trips between March and November, and are able to do so up to 30 days in advance, the release added.
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Tickets will be limited to 800 visitors per day. According to the release, the park will make the first 400 tickets available 30 days ahead of time and the remaining 400 will become available five days before each date.
The National Park Service said that a recent visitor-use and expectations study revealed significant crowding and congestion at Old Rag during certain times of the year.
The study also found that park goers felt that limiting visitors would improve their experience and safety, and preserve rare ecological communities, according to the release.
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The new pilot program will help the park evaluate and potentially move toward a more permanent system in the future, the release said. After the one-year trial, park management will share its analysis.