In 2016, Rocky Mountain National Park was the fourth most visited national park with over 4.5 million visitors. This visitation represents a 32 percent increase since 2014, and a 40 percent increase since 2012. Over the last 100 years, the reasons people visit are the same; to experience nature, to seek solitude, to enjoy scenic grandeur, to watch wildlife, and to partake in outstanding recreational activities.
Popularity and high visitation during the summer and fall, particularly during 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. can mean full parking lots, congested roads, busy trails, and long lines and wait times at entrance stations. Park managers will continue to address what effect this level of visitation will have on visitor and staff safety, resource protection, visitor experiences and operational capacity. Last year during the summer and early fall, park staff restricted vehicle access in three specific areas, the Bear Lake Road corridor, the Wild Basin area, and Alpine Visitor Center when parking areas filled and heavy congestion warranted. This occurred most weekends from late June through September of 2016. We are continuing to implement these short term efforts in 2017.
Plan ahead for a more enjoyable visit to Rocky!
• Hike early or hike late.
• Check the weather forecast before you arrive at the park to better plan your day and destinations. If you plan to hike later in the day, it is critical that you know the weather forecast for the elevation of your destination.
• Take advantage of the park shuttle
• Trailhead parking lots fill early in the day:
Glacier Gorge Trailhead by 6:00 a.m.
Bear Lake Trailhead by 8:30 a.m.
Park and Ride by 10:30 a.m.
Wild Basin Corridor by 9:30 a.m.
• If you want to hike in the Bear Lake Road corridor and plan to arrive after 11, your best option, and on some days your only option, will be to take the Hiker Shuttle from the Estes Park Visitor Center
• The Alpine Visitor Center parking lot is often full between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
• More than eighty percent of park visitors arrive through the east entrances of the park
• Camping is popular in the park. Reserve a campsite up to six months before your visit. The two first-come, first-served campgrounds fill up quickly. Timber Creek Campground, located on the west side of the park, fills up last.
• In September, visitation is 50 percent higher on weekends than weekdays
• Purchase a daily or weekly entrance pass online at go.nps.gov/rockyfees
Your email confirmation will serve as your pass and should save transaction time once you reach the park entrance station kiosk.
The remaining fee free days for 2017, are August 25, September 30, and November 11-12.