In an effort to decrease epic traffic, improve the visitor experience and spread out the impact of millions of visitors to the park, Rocky Mountain National Park has announced it will launch a reservation system beginning Memorial Day.
In 2020, the park was the first in the National Park Service system to launch a reservation system that kept visitation at 60 percent of capacity. Even with the reservation system, reduced travel because of COVID-19 and two of Colorado’s largest wildfires burning into the park, Rocky Mountain National Park was the fourth busiest park in the nation in 2020.
“We’re expecting visitation this year to increase dramatically because of what we’re calling the COVID crush,” Superintendent Darle Sidles told Estes Park town council in a March 29 meeting.
And a disproportionate amount of visitation in the past has been to the Bear Lake Road Corridor. To reduce the hordes of people flocking to Bear Lake at the same times, the park will have two different reservation systems—one for the entire park and one for the park minus the Bear Lake Road Corridor. The reservation system will keep visitation numbers at between 75-85 percent of park capacity.
For those wanting to visit the Bear Lake area, you’ll need reservations for visits between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. This encompasses the entire Bear Lake Corridor including the Moraine Park Discovery Center, Sprague Lake, Cub Lake trailheads and the Glacier Basin trailheads. The Bear Lake Corridor reservation also gives you access to the rest of the park.
For those wanting to visit only the park areas outside of the Bear Lake Corridor, you’ll need reservations to enter the park anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Visitors with campground reservations may use those reservations for entry.
What should you do if you don’t have a reservation? You can still enter the park before or after the reservation hours. Park entrance fees still apply.
The reservation system called “Timed Entry,” hosted by recreation.gov, will run from May 28 through Oct. 11, 2021. The park will leave some openings for people to purchase reservation tickets 48 hours before they plan on entering the park. To start, 25 percent of permits will be held and available for purchase the day prior at 5 p.m. through recreation.gov. However, these spots will most likely go quickly. It will cost visitors $2 to make a reservation. This fee is in addition to the park entrance fee that visitors pay when they enter Rocky Mountain National Park.
Reservations will go on sale through www.recreation.gov at 8 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Saturday, May 1. You will be able to make reservations to enter the park from May 28 through June 30. The next release will be on June 1 for the month of July and any remaining days that have not been booked for June.
On July 1, reservations will be available for the month of August and any remaining days that have not been booked for July. On Aug. 1, reservations will be available for the month of September and any remaining days in August that have not been booked.
On Sept. 1, reservations will be available for October and any remaining days in September that have not been booked.
For more information regarding the Timed Entry reservation system, visit www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/time-entry-permit-system.htm.