DENVER (KDVR) – Colorado’s state parks are pushing capacity like its national parks are, and officials are considering some of the same reservation systems in response.
The National Parks Service in Colorado implemented a timed reservation system for Rocky Mountain National Park in 2020 after a decades’ worth of Colorado population growth made annual visitation balloon 44% since 2012.
RMNP will renew the system in 2022 between the months of May and October.
State data says popular state parks in the Front Range are now seeing the same kind of growth post-pandemic. The annual visitation to large state parks was already going up but exploded in 2020.
Yearly visitation to popular Front Range state parks grew from 7.5 million in 2015 to just under 10 million in 2018. In both 2020 and 2021, that number shot up to 12.7 million.
Most visits are concentrated in just five parks — Lake Pueblo, Chatfield, Cherry Creek, Golden Gate Canyon and Arkansas Headwaters.
By far, the state’s most-visited state park is Lake Pueblo, with 3.4 million visitors last year.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife representative Jason Clay acknowledges that the state’s booming population has stressed the outdoors. He said the Eldorado Canyon state park is considering putting a timed reservation system in place — similar to the one put in place by the Rocky Mountain National Park — in 2022.
If Eldorado Canyon puts a system in place, it would make sense for other parks to do the same.
Eldorado Canyon’s annual visits have increased 22% from 2019 to 2021. At the same time, other parks with far more yearly visitors have seen visitation grow even more.
Lake Pueblo’s visitation went up 38% in the same time, Golden Gate Canyon’s jumped 44%, and Chatfield’s went up 25%.