The Park Studies Unit of the National Park Service Social Science Division is in charge of conducting visitor surveys throughout the National Park System. The unit uses customer satisfaction cards, focus groups and periodic in-depth Visitor Services Project (VSP) visitor studies.
Through these in-depth VSP surveys park managers obtain accurate information about visitors - who they are, what they do, their needs, and opinions.
The most recent VSP studies for Rocky Mountain National Park were conducted during the summer of 2010 and winter of 2011.
* As you might expect, Colorado had the highest percentage of visitors from any state. During the summer survey 24% of all visitors were from Colorado. That number jumped to 77% during the winter survey.
* During both time periods Texas ranked second as the state of origin among visitors. During the summer survey, Texas represented 9% of all visitors, Illinois ranked third at 7%, Missouri represented 6%, and Nebraska rounded out the top 5 at 5%.
* 4% of all visitors during the summer were from abroad. However, that number shrank to less than 1% during the winter survey time period.
* 39% of the summer visitors stated they were visiting Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time in their lifetime. However, during the winter, 73% of the respondents said they had visited the park at least one other time in the past 12 months.
* Summer visitors tended to be more female (56%), while winter visitors skewed towards male (53%).
* During the summer survey the five most commonly visited sites were:
Trail Ridge Road (71%)
Alpine Visitor Center (60%)
Bear Lake (47%)
Old Fall River Road (36%)
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center (35%)
* The most common activities during the summer were:
Viewing scenery (93%)
Driving Trail Ridge Road (75%)
Wildlife viewing/bird watching (73%)
Day hiking (57%)
Driving Bear Lake Road (38%)
Also of note, 7% of respondents said they participated in mountaineering/climbing, while another 6% spent time backpacking.
Viewing scenery was the most important activity for 35% of visitor groups. 28% said day hiking was the most important activity, while wildlife viewing/bird watching ranked third at 14%.
* The most common activities during the winter visit were:
Viewing scenery (66%)
Wildlife viewing/bird watching (45%)
Driving Bear Lake Road (28%)
Day hiking (23%)
34% of all visitor groups said that snowshoeing was the most important activity. 19% said viewing scenery was the most important, while 15% said wildlife viewing/bird watching, 11% day hiking, and 8% said cross-country skiing was their primary activity.
You can view both studies by clicking on the summer and winter VSP reports.