ESTES PARK, Colo. – The popularity of national parks in Colorado continues to soar. Coming off of a record number of visitors in 2016, Rocky Mountain National Park is expected to see even more visitors in 2017. The park’s popularity is causing some painful traffic headaches.
“It’s something that has to be looked at because it’s only going to get worse,” a driver outside the park told FOX31 on Wednesday.
The famed park has shattered visitor attendance records each year since 2014.
“We’ve actually had numerous occasions where emergency vehicles have difficulty getting to locations just because of the sheer volume of vehicles,” said park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson.
4.5 million people enjoyed the stunning views in 2016. This year is on track for the park to see even more visitors, according to Patterson.
The National Park Service said it has been forced to limit vehicle access to some favorite locations within the park—including the popular Alpine Visitor Center along Trail Ridge Road. The access limitation is an effort to protect the park’s environment and wildlife while also providing an enjoyable experience for visitors.
“It’s a hard balancing act, and it’s one that we look at every time we make any decisions here,” Patterson explained.
Park staffers encourage people to visit the park during weekdays, if possible. Arriving early in the morning is advised. Also, try to avoid peak midday travel times on weekends and consider carpooling.
As the fourth most visited national park in America, rangers expect the special place will only become more congested. It’s an issue with a silver lining–proving there’s no shortage of appreciation for Colorado’s great outdoors.