Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) will implement another pilot temporary timed entry permit reservation system beginning on May 26, 2023. Previous use of the reservation system has eased congestion impacts and improved the visitor experience in the park.
The reservation permit system is similar to that used in 2022, with two types of reservations available. One permit will be for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which includes the entire corridor, as well as access to the rest of the park. This reservation period will be from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. The second permit will be for the “rest of the park,” excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor. This “rest of park” reservation period will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Permits issued using the reservation system will allow park visitors to enter the park within two-hour windows of availability, with no set time for departure. The reservation system will apply to all areas of the park. The only cost associated with booking a reservation is a $2 recreation.gov processing fee.
Reservations to enter the park will be available through www.recreation.gov at 8 a.m. MDT on Monday, May 1. This round of reservations will be available to enter the park from May 26 through June 30. The next release will occur 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 August 1, reservations will be available for the month of September and any remaining days in August that have not been booked. On September 1, reservations will be available for October and any remaining days in September that have not been booked.
Modifications from the 2022 pilot system to the 2023 pilot system include making 40 percent of all reservations available the day prior at 5 p.m. through recreation.gov. These are expected to run out quickly and visitors are encouraged to plan ahead when possible. Other modifications will include extending the pilot permit system through October 22 and reducing the time period and number of hours daily that a reservation is required for “rest of park.” This reduced reservation period will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. This system spreads use throughout the park and throughout the day to better use all parking/trailhead areas.
The park is continuing to work on its long-range visitor use management plan including public meetings in December and a public engagement comment period from December 12 through February 1. To learn more go to Day Use Visitor Access Strategy - Rocky Mountain National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
RMNP is one of the busiest national parks with over 4.6 million visitors in 2019, representing a 44 percent increase in visitation in seven years. In 2021, under a pilot timed entry system, RMNP’s visitation was 4.4 million. Visitor crowding and congestion at the park have led to increased negative impacts to visitor and staff safety, resource protection, visitor experience and operational capacity.
The park has experimented and piloted various visitor use management strategies over the last six years, including managing vehicle access to first-come, first serve (2016-2019) in highly congested areas. These first-come, first-serve restrictions had some limited success initially, but over time began to lose effectiveness; the length of time they were necessary kept expanding and impacts were pushed elsewhere. The park piloted park wide timed entry permit reservation systems (2020-2022) and will be piloting a similar system again in 2023 while the park works to complete its long-range visitor use management plan. During all the pilots the park has collected extensive traffic, trail, and visitor movement data, and collected baseline data on social trails, bare ground areas, and human waste along highly visited trail corridors. Additionally, timed entry pilot related research was conducted on parking lot turnover rates at key trailheads. The park is learning from these various strategies since 2016, to help inform long-range day use visitor access strategies.
For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park please visit www.nps.gov/romo, follow the park on social media @RockyNPS or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.