ESTES PARK, Colo. — Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) reopened to the public Wednesday morning and late next the park will implement a timed entry system.
The Beaver Meadows and Grand Lake entrances and many outlying areas and basic park road and trail access opened Wednesday as part of Phase 1, which runs now through June 3.
During that time, park staff will evaluate the level of visitation and may meter access based on the level of visitation. This will be evaluated throughout each day. During these dates, visitors can only purchase entrance passes at entrance stations with credit cards. Entry may also be delayed and visitors might be asked to return later if visitation and congestion warrants.
In this initial opening phase, the park will open approximately 60 percent of the park’s maximum parking capacity or 4,800 vehicles (13,500 visitors) per day.
RMNP will continue to work with the state to follow the safer-at-home guidance, as well as with county and local officials as these changes are implemented, the park service said.
The Wild Basin area will remain closed to all public access during the initial phase.
"The health and safety of park visitors, employees, volunteers and partners continues to be paramount," the park service said. "Rocky Mountain National Park staff continue to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored."
The second phase will include a temporary timed entry system to allow more people to enjoy the park safely while also complying with health guidelines. The system will be removed in later phases of the reopening process.
Reservations to enter the park will go on sale through www.recreation.gov at 8 a.m. Mountain Time on Thursday, May 28.
Reservations will be available to enter the park from June 4 through July 31. The next release will be on 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.
Permits issued using the reservation system will allow park visitors to enter the park within two-hour windows of availability between 6 a.m. through 5 p.m. This process will facilitate advance payment of entrance fees, minimize contact between park entrance station staff and visitors, and limit congestion in parking lots. The permit system will apply to all areas of the park.
RMNP is located in Larimer, Grand and Boulder counties.
Trail Ridge Road will be open to Rainbow Curve on the east side and Colorado River Trailhead on the west side. Fall River Road will not be open to motorized vehicles during this initial phase but will open to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Road construction is ongoing on US 36 inside of Rocky Mountain National Park. The work is taking place on a three-mile section of US 36, just west of Bear Lake Road junction to east of Deer Ridge Junction. This section of road will be closed nightly from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., Sunday nights through Friday mornings. There will be no nightly closures on Friday and Saturday nights. When the road reopens each morning at 7 a.m. to traffic, motorists should expect delays and a rough surface.
Only Moraine Park and Glacier Basin Campgrounds will be partially open on June 4, with approximately half of the campsites available for reservations.
Aspenglen, Timber Creek and Longs Peak Campgrounds will remain closed for the foreseeable future and may be re-evaluated for partial opening later in the summer.
Wilderness backcountry campsites
Wilderness camping permits will be issued beginning May 27 through autumn. In early May, park staff began contacting wilderness campers who had existing permits for the month of May to reschedule, if possible, their wilderness camping permits for later in the summer.
Shuttle bus operations
Shuttle bus operations within the Bear Lake Road corridor will begin on May 27. In order to practice proper social distancing to minimize community spread of COVID-19, the capacity of the shuttle buses in the Bear Lake Corridor will be limited to 15 passengers per trip. Wear cloth face coverings while riding in the bus. It is unknown at this time whether the Hiker Shuttle from the Estes Park Visitor Center will be operating this summer.
Park staff are still determining the feasibility and timing of park visitor center operations as well as other services.
Keep these things in mind
Keep your distance. Give others plenty of room whether you are on a trail or in a parking lot. If staying at least six feet from others is not possible, wear a cloth face covering. Wear cloth face coverings while in park restrooms.
Keep it with you. If you brought it, take it with you. Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas. Follow Leave No Trace principles.
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. Winter-like conditions exist in high elevation areas of the park. Bear Lake currently has 14 inches of snow. During the ongoing health crisis, it is critical to make wise choices to keep our national park rangers and first-responders out of harm’s way.
Protect wildlife. Obey speed limits and be aware of wildlife. During the closure, due to lack of vehicular traffic, park rangers have observed more wildlife congregating adjacent to or on internal park roads.
> Visit nps.gov/romo or call the park’s information office at 970-586-1206 for more information.
Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most visited national park in the country with over 4.6 million visitors last year. Visitors experience a high level of congestion in many areas of the park from late May through early October. In 2019, visitation from June through September was over 3.2 million visitors. In July of last year alone, almost 1 million people visited the park.
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