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Rocky unlikely to use permit system this summer

Rocky Mountain National Park saw 30% fewer visitors last year due to a combination of the pandemic and wildfires, but officials say they do not plan to implement the timed entry permit system this summer.
Robert Mendoza / Sky-Hi News

Visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park will likely not have to navigate a timed entry permit system this summer.

Rocky closed down twice last year due to the pandemic and then the East Troublesome Fire. After shutting down from March 20 through May 27, the park put in a timed entry system for the summer.

Rocky spokesperson Kyle Patterson said the park does not plan to implement the same type of system as was used in 2020, but it’s hard to anticipate what public health rules will be in place in May.



“(We) will continue restrictions when necessary and may implement other pilot visitor management techniques if congestion and crowding warrants,” Patterson said.

The goal of last summer’s permit entry system was to bring visitation down to 60% of average. According to Rocky’s latest public use report, visitation across the park is down over 30% from last year — equal to a drop of over one million visitors.



The East Troublesome Fire also shut down the entire park from Oct. 21 through Nov. 5, though only the east side reopened initially. East Inlet and East Shore trails on the western side opened in November, but the Grand Lake entrance was closed to all use for November.

The closure on the western side meant Grand Lake missed out on all of the roughly 4,000 visitors from November 2019. Year to date, the Grand Lake entrance has seen 41.3% fewer visitors or a drop of roughly 200,000 people.

Patterson added that Rocky does not expect visitation to go down this year due to the impacts of the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires, which burned a combined 9% of the park.

With visitation up 44% since 2012, Rocky continues to seek solutions to the effect this has on visitors and staff, resource protection and operational capacity. The park has already implemented vehicle restrictions as warranted on Bear Lake Road, Wild Basin area and Alpine Visitor center.

“We will learn from the temporary timed entry permit system last year and incorporate lessons learned as we move forward with our visitor use management planning efforts,” Patterson said.

As the park explores management strategies, Patterson said there would be plenty of opportunities for public engagement and input well before anything formal is implemented.


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