Not everyone is happy, but Rocky Mountain National Park has decided to use a timed entry permit reservation system beginning on May 28, 2021. Park officials are calling it “temporary” (but with the Feds “temporary” always seems to become “permanent”) blaming the change on significant increases in visitation, continued Covid-19 concerns, ongoing park seasonal staff shared housing challenges, reduced shuttle bus capacity and residual fire impacts in some areas of the park from historic fires in 2020.
How The Reservation System Works
There will be two types of reservations available. One permit will be for the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which will include the entire corridor and access to the rest of the park. This reservation period will be from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The second permit will be for the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park, excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor. This reservation period will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Permits issued using the reservation system will allow park visitors to enter the park within two-hour windows of availability. The reservation system will apply to all areas of the park.
Reservations to enter the park will go on sale through recreation.gov at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 1. Reservations will be available to enter the park from May 28 through June 30.
The next release will be on June 1, for the month of July and any remaining days that have not been booked for June.
On July 1, reservations will be available 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 in August that have not been booked.
On September 1, reservations will be available for October and any remaining days in September that have not been booked.
The park will hold back 25% of the permits available for each day and release them for sale at 5 p.m. through recreation.gov the day before. However, they are expected to sell out very quickly.
According to the National Park Service, this year’s pilot reservation system allows for a greater number of reservations per day. Reservations will be based on approximately 75% to 85% of the park’s total parking capacity up from 60% in 2020.
Vehicle (automobile or motorcycle) one-day entry is $25 + a nonrefundable $2 reservation fee.
Annual/Lifetime pass holders get in for free, but still must make a reservation and pay the nonrefundable $2 reservation fee.
Here’s what to expect when you go to the park
If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas. Bring you own soap, toilet paper, water, etc. Follow Leave No Trace principles.
Face Masks Required
Face masks are required in all park buildings and facilities. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, including narrow or busy trails, parking lots, pull-offs and overlooks.
Know your limits
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the busiest search and rescue parks in the country. Many of these incidents could be avoided with visitors planning and making responsible decisions.
For further information on Rocky Mountain National Park, go here or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.
During your research on this, was there any mention of those people who just want to travel through the park to get from Estes Park to Grand Lake or vice versa? Do they need reservations? Thanks!
Dee — You may want to check the park website, but it sounds as if unless you go really early in the morning or late in the afternoon you need a reservation to gain admittance. There’s no way for rangers to know you are simply driving through or suddenly change your mind and decide to stop because you spot something interesting. — Laura