ESTES PARK, Colo. (KDVR) — Rocky Mountain National Park is moving toward its busy season with no plan to reinstate last year’s reservation system used to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
Kyle Patterson, a spokesperson for the park, says it’s likely there were be some measures to monitor crowds, but those plans haven’t been finalized.
“We don’t foresee that we’ll have that same system in place this year or that we’ll need to keep it to 60 percent overall park visitation. But we also know there’s a lot of unknowns for the summer as well,” said Patterson.
The reservation system was put in place during the 2020 peak season and required guests to book a time slot between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. prior to arrival. The park aimed to keep capacity around 60 percent.
Patterson says the system helped ensure social distancing but also helped protect the land.
“We were hearing from visitors that really thought it enhanced their experience. The resources benefited from it in many locations as well,” said Patterson.
Other visitors felt the system needed improvement. Cindy Barnes and her husband take advantage of their park pass each year. She says the reservation system made it almost impossible to plan a last-minute trip to the park.
“I would love to see flexibility for people who simply did not know about the reservation system. There just needs to be a little more freedom for people to come rather than drive three hours only to be disappointed and find out that passes are completely sold out,” said Barnes.
Visitation was down in 2020 but Rocky Mountain National Park has seen a 44 percent increase in visitors during the last eight years. Patterson says that type of growth alone requires them to look at new ways to manage crowds.
“We’re going to continue restrictions when necessary and we may implement other pilot visitor-use management strategies in some of those crowded and congested areas. We’re just not sure what that looks like yet,” said Patterson.