Rocky Mountain National Park sees 25% fewer visitors in July |

Rocky Mountain National Park sees 25% fewer visitors in July

Hikers return to the trails May 27 at Rocky Mountain National Park after the park reopened to the public.
Robert Mendoza / Sky-Hi News

While July 2019 was a record-breaking month with nearly one million people going to Rocky Mountain National Park, officials recorded roughly 25% fewer visitors this past July.

Dave Lively began giving private tours in Rocky Mountain National Park last year. While marketing has increased business for him this summer, it’s not what he predicted it would be due to the coronavirus.

For the first time ever, Rocky implemented a timed permit system from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week allocating permits equal to about 60% of the maximum parking capacity. That equals 4,800 vehicles a day.

Because Lively holds a commercial permit with the park, he doesn’t have to worry about the timed entry system. In fact, he said there’s been a slight increase in interest in his service because of this access.

It’s hard to tell with such a new business how much the changes at Rocky and the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted him, but he explained that it was possible that there were fewer visitors in general coming over Trail Ridge Road due to the timed entry system.

“The reservation system doesn’t affect my business in the direct way,” Lively said. “The reservations may be affecting some of the travelers coming to the Grand Lake area and thereby not wanting a tour.”

Because of visitors entering the park outside the reservation hours, the actual visitation in July was about 75% of Rocky’s maximum capacity.

The Grand Lake entrance received 86,149 of the 723,478 total visitors, equaling a drop of 44% compared to last July. The Beaver Meadows entrance on the eastern side of the park saw 18.2% fewer visitors.

Year to date, the Grand Lake entrance to Rocky has seen 44.4% fewer visitors. To compare, the park as a whole has seen visitors drop by 34% and the Beaver Meadows entrance has seen 31.5% fewer people.

While 2020 started out looking to be another record breaking year for Rocky with 30% more visits in February compared to the previous year, everything changed in March.

April 2019 saw 160,259 total visitors, while this year there were zero. Rocky reopened May 27 for a phased reopening, but did not start the timed entry system until June 4. In just the last five days of May, the park saw 62,051 visitors with 2,910 using the Grand Lake entrance.

In June, with the timed permit system in place, the park as a whole saw nearly 30% fewer visitors while visits on the Grand Lake side went down by 21%.

These visitor numbers are just estimates, but do give an idea of the overall traffic. Lively acknowledged that is noticeably less crowded at the park, which does improve the overall trip to Rocky.

“The visitor gets a better experience out of it because we don’t have the crowds,” he said.

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