This is an informational post for anyone planning on visiting Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) this summer, and probably into fall as well. Be prepared for changes as the park opens up under Covid-19 restrictions. The biggest change that you will find is the mandatory timed entry reservation you must have to enter the park. RMNP is providing permits to enter the park for $2 and keeping capacity at 60% of what a normal year looks like – which was 4.7 million in 2019. The permit is issued for one individual car, not per person. Personally, I think this is an excellent solution and I read that Yosemite is doing a similar program this summer. As our parks increase in visitation to the point that the parks and facilities are overwhelmed, we may see this happen at more parks.
For now, the best thing to do is plan ahead. Permits are currently available through the end of July and one permit can be purchased per day. On July 1st, permits will become available for August and so on. You will need to choose a time slot from the list and those are at 6 am, 8 am, 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. Once you select your time slot and purchase your permit, you have two hours to enter the park from the start time. From what I have been told by park officials, you are free to leave the park and come back in any time after your entry slot. If you are heading into the park before 6 am or after 5 pm, you should not have to purchase a permit. As of now, I have been given some mixed information on this. If you are going to be in park most of the day, the rangers I spoke with suggested still getting a 6 am permit if available. As long as you enter the park before then and stay in the park, you are most likely fine. You just would not be allowed to leave and then come back in.
If you did not plan ahead and are hoping to head into the park on short notice, you still may be in luck. The park will release more permits two days before as they state on their website, “Vehicle entry reservations also available two days in advance at 8 a.m. MT on a rolling daily window. Example: On June 2, reservations will be available for June 4; on June 3 reservations will be available for June 5.)
Please note, the $2 fee covers the reservation and permit for the park. You are still required to present a park pass or pay the entry fee to the park.
So, what does mean in the park? So far, on the four days I used the timed entry system, it means much shorter lines at the gates! That is an awesome bonus and I will gladly pay $2 for that benefit. It also means less crowds in the park, although it still felt pretty busy this weekend as of mid-June. As of now, the Alpine Visitor Center will not open until the end of June, 2020. The Trail Ridge store should be open now, but please check this before going as it was supposed to open in mid-June. Please plan accordingly if you are heading up and over the pass. Rocky Mountain National Park also requests that you wear masks and social distance throughout the park, and the shops in Estes Park all require a mask for you to enter.