Photos: Rocky reopens after 67 day COVID-19 closure
When visitors returned to Rocky Mountain National Park after a 67 day closure due to COVID-19, there were no major crowds on the west side of the park — but there was a constant flow of happy hikers.
Rocky began a phased reopening Wednesday, and hikers with free time ran out into the somewhat rainy weather to enjoy the park. Grand Lake local Kyle Ingle was just about to begin his hike at East Inlet, his first at Rocky in over two months.
“It’s always nice when our trails get reopened,” Ingle said.
For Denver residents Jean and Erin Speer, it was a beautiful day to get out. The mother and daughter even saw a moose, and they were glad to see Rocky open.
“We’re excited for everything to reopen,” Erin Speer added.
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The park is open to visitors without reservations until Thursday, but staff will be evaluating the level of visitation throughout the day to restrict access as needed. Starting Thursday, all visitors will need a reservation to enter the park.
Reservations are on sale now through http://www.recreation.gov for entry through July 31. The reservation fee is $2, plus the $25 day pass. Annual or senior pass holders will be required to get a permit, but will only have to pay the $2 reservation fee.
Permits will go on sale each month on a rolling basis throughout the summer, with August reservations available July 1; September reservations available Aug. 1; and October reservations available Sept. 1.
There will also be reservations available two days in advance beginning at 8 a.m. For example, additional July 1 reservations will be available June 29.
Park visitors with a permit will be able to enter the park within a two-hour window of availability between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Ingle usually hikes at Rocky every other week during normal times. He said that he doesn’t see the reservation system as too much of an inconvenience and that he’ll be able to plan around the reservations.
“I think considering the circumstances, it’s probably in their best interest to keep it open,” Ingle said of the time entry system. “I think it’s a good idea.”
For Jean and Erin Speer, who typically only come up a couple times a year during a regular season, the reservations mean they might not come back this summer.
“A lot of people love to do this,” Jean Speer said. “I think it will be a disappointment to a lot of people. I don’t think many people plan.”
Rocky was the third most visited national park in the country last year with more than half a million visitors entering Rocky from Grand Lake and even more coming to Grand Lake from Trail Ridge Road.
It’s unclear how capping total visits at 60% will affect the small town that gets a large potion of its economic activity during those summer months, especially when most visitors enter the park from the east side. The park said that the reservation system will go away in later phases of reopening.
Frequently asked questions about the timed entry system can be found at http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/fees.htm.
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