Rocky Mountain National Park the third most visited U.S. national park in 2018 |

Rocky Mountain National Park the third most visited U.S. national park in 2018

Rocky Mountain National Park received its highest annual visitation ever in 2018, according to park officials. And now officials have announced it was the third most visited national park last year.

The park received a total of 4,590,492 visitors last year, which was a 3.5 percent increase over visitation in 2017. This number represents a slight increase from previous record visitation in 2016, of 4,517,584. Visitation for 2018 represents a 42 percent increase since 2012. Total National Park Service visitation topped 318 million in 2018, with 11.4 million visitors to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, ranking first, and 6.4 million to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Determining visitation numbers is a difficult and imprecise effort, according to the park, but visitation statistics are reliably accurate estimates and help park managers see overall trends.

Fall visitation, particularly on weekends, continues to increase at Rocky Mountain National Park. Winter weekend visitation also continues to increase. The top ten busiest days in 2018 were Sept. 22, Sept. 10, Sept. 2, July 22, Sept. 15, Sept. 3, Sept. 23, Sept. 16, July 1 and Aug. 11.

Park managers continue to address the effect this level of visitation is having on visitor and staff safety, resource protection, visitor experiences and operational capacity.

Beginning in 2016, during the summer and early fall, park staff restricted vehicle access in three specific areas, the Bear Lake Road corridor, the Wild Basin area, and Alpine Visitor Center when parking areas fill and heavy congestion warrants. These restrictions occurred most days in July and August, in addition to weekends in June and September.

Other areas of the park are experiencing high visitation as well, particularly when restrictions are in place, according to park officials. Addressing day-use for the long-term requires a holistic park-wide approach. Therefore, park staff is developing draft concepts to address the multitude of day use challenges. These concepts will be shared with the public later this year and will involve a stakeholder-engaged planning process.

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