As COVID-19 continues to change travel trends and pretty much the way we do well, everything, restrictions and limitations at popular attractions have become commonplace. But, in what might be a surprising choice, Rocky Mountain National Park—visited by nearly five million people each year—has nixed its timed-entry reservation system.
In direct response to the pandemic, on June 4, 2020, the park began its timed entry reservation, which capped vehicle entry to 60 percent, an understandable restriction for such a popular destination. While the two-hour reservations only required visitors to show up during that window period, but there was no limit on how long they could actually stay in the park.
“This system will more safely manage the pace and flow of visitor use, reduce crowding, and provide an improved visitor experience in alignment with the park’s safe operational capacity,” Superintendent Darla Sidles said in a statement about the new system.
Well, after a few months and the end of the park’s busy season, that system has ended.
"With the health and safety of park visitors, employees, and surrounding community residents guiding our decisions, the timed entry permit system enabled us to more safely manage the pace and flow of visitor use throughout the day, reduce crowding, and provide an improved visitor experience in alignment with the park’s safe operational capacity during these extraordinary times," Sidles said in a statement announcing the plan.
Last week, Kyle Patterson, the park’s public affairs officer, told The Denver Post there’s no plan to reinstate the timed reservation, but that doesn’t mean other measures won’t be taken to control crowds.
"At this time, we do not plan to implement the same type of timed-entry permit system as was used in 2020, but will continue restrictions when necessary and may implement other pilot visitor management techniques if congestion and crowding warrants," said Patterson.
Officials have noted they won’t settle upon a permanent reservation system without input from the public.
As the third most-visited national park continues to work on an ultimate solution to overcrowding, shortly after being sworn in, President Biden signed a mandate requiring masks to be worn on public transportation and federal lands, including national parks and monuments.