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Rocky Mountain National Park not planning to use same entry system as last year

Colorado's most popular national park used a timed entry permit system in order to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESTES PARK, Colo. — Though the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, Rocky Mountain National Park said it would not implement the same reservation system it used as part of an effort to ensure social distancing in 2020.

“The timed entry permit system at Rocky was a temporary solution to aid in reopening the park last summer due to COVID-19, with our goal of 60% regular visitation,” Kyle Patterson, a spokesperson for the park, wrote in an email to 9NEWS.

Rocky Mountain National Park closed to the public entirely in March due to the state’s stay-at-home order. It began a phased reopening in May and implemented a timed entry reservation system in June.

> Video above: Estes Park businesses pleased with changes at RMNP.

RELATED: Rocky Mountain National Park to end timed entry system

RELATED: Rocky Mountain National Park to begin phased reopening

This required visitors to reserve permits and enter the par within two-hour windows. Paying entry fees in advance reduced contact with park staff and aimed to limit congestion at parking lots and trailheads.

The park ended that timed entry system in October, which marked the start of the less busy winter season. 

That same month, the park closed due to the East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires, which burned within its borders and have led to continued closures.

Before 2020, Patterson said Rocky Mountain National Park had seen a double-digit increase in visitors. In 2016, this led to the implementation of vehicle restrictions on Bear Lake Road, Wild Basin area and Alpine Visitor Center.

RELATED: Rocky Mountain National Park stays closed

RELATED: Parts of Rocky Mountain National Park to reopen after East Troublesome Fire

“In 2019, these restrictions occurred every day in July (visitation over 970,000 visitors that month), most days in August, in addition to weekends in June and September, she said.

Patterson said the park hopes to use some of the lessons from 2020 in the coming years.

“We will learn from the temporary timed entry permit system last year and incorporate lessons learned as we move forward with our visitor use management planning efforts,” she wrote.

RELATED: Colorado’s stay-at-home order has been lifted. What does that mean for national parks?

Rocky Mountain National Park is the most visited of Colorado's four national parks. 

All four closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but reopened in the spring with increased social distancing measures in place.  

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