Timed entry required in RMNP this summer
By Amber McIver-Traywick
Rocky Mountain National Park began a phased reopening Wednesday, May 27, with limited services including basic park road and trail access. Visitor centers will remain closed. Many outlying areas will reopen; however, the Wild Basin area will remain closed to all public access during this initial phase.
Rocky Mountain National Park closed to visitors March 20. According to a news release, the closure came at the request of the local health department in Estes Park. Earlier in the day, Estes Park Mayor Todd Jirsa called on Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to close the park in order to limit visitors coming through the town to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Trail Ridge Road is open to Rainbow Curve on the east side and the Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. Park snowplow operators continue to plow snow along the roadways and parking lots of Trail Ridge Road, and the full roadway will open as soon as that is completed, weather conditions permitting. Fall River Road will not be open to motorized vehicles during this phase but will open to bicyclists and pedestrians. While much of the park will be accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased, and services will be limited. According to the park’s website, visitors’ actions will help determine if areas remain open.
Beginning June 4, a timed entry permit or camping reservation will be required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park in a private vehicle between the hours of 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Reservations went on sale through Recreation.gov May 28. Those reservations will be for June 4 through July 31. For details, visit nps.gov/room/planyourvisit. If you currently have any type of annual pass there is a $2 processing fee to make the reservation. All others will pre-pay the regular gate fee plus the $2 fee.
The initial opening phase allocates approximately 60% of the park’s maximum parking capacity which works out to 13,500 visitors per day or 4,800 vehicles. Park staff will monitor their ability to operate with present health guidelines and adapt the system accordingly.
The next release or passes will be July 1, 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 that have not been booked for August. On September 1, reservations will be available for the month of October and any remaining days in September that have not been booked.
When the park initially reopens, park staff will evaluate the level of visitation, crowding and congestion, and will meter access based on the level of visitation. This will be evaluated throughout the day. Visitors may be delayed entering or asked to return later if visitation and congestion warrants. Visitors should expect restricted vehicle access, particularly in the Bear Lake Road corridor, when parking areas fill and heavy congestion warrants. At this time, visitors can only purchase entrance passes at entrance stations with credit cards; no cash will be accepted.
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