Reservation Central

May 04, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

In Colorado, there are nearly 12 locations that require some type of reservation to visit the recreation hotspot during the busy summer months. Most campgrounds, including all state parks and most national forests campsites, now require reservations prior to arrival. 

The reservations may be frustrating for many recreators, but for those who obtain one to these popular destinations throughout the Centennial State, they improve the visitor experience with reduced congestion in parking lots, on trails and at bathrooms. Managing the volume of people at popular locations can also help reduce damage to natural resources, like trails that become widened or parking outside of designated parking areas.

Here are details for obtaining reservations at a few of the popular Colorado outdoor spots and a list of the destinations that require some type of reservation this summer.

Longs_Peak_Sunrise_RMNP_2022_1Longs_Peak_Sunrise_RMNP_2022_1Rocky Mountain National Park requires a timed-entry reservation to enter the park during peak hours from May 24 to October 20 in 2024.

Rocky Mountain National Park

May 1 has come and gone. That may not seem like a significant date but I spent the 8 a.m. hour that day booking reservations for May and June so I could enter one of my favorite national parks – and the closest to my home – at least through the end of June. What was my calendar looking like eight weeks away from May 1? I really have no idea but if I want to enter the park, and my job depends on it, I needed the reservations. 

(Funny thing was that as I wrapped up the summer plans in Rocky, I headed to Rocky to work on my hike of the week article. I was in snow later that afternoon on the trail to Bierstadt Lake. Interesting dichotomy.)

There are a few new items this year for the timed entry reservation system in RMNP, including the end date for the reservation system season depending on which permit you reserve.

One permit, called “Timed Entry+,” will be for the Bear Lake Road corridor, which includes the entire length of the road from in­side the Beaver Meadows en­trance to Bear Lake plus the remainder of the park, from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. This system will be in place from Friday, May 24 through Sunday, Oct. 20

The second permit, called “Timed Entry,” includes the “rest of the park,” excluding the Bear Lake Road corridor. This “rest of the park” reservation period will be from 9 a.m. to 2p.m. from May 24 through Tuesday, Oct. 15

Permits issued using the reservation system will al­low park visitors to enter the park within a two-hour win­dow with no set time for de­parture. There is a $2 processing fee to make each reservation.

Reservations to enter the park from May 24 through June 30 will be available through recreation.gov and went on sale at 8 a.m. MDT on Wednesday, May 1. The next release will occur at 8 a.m. on June 1, for the month of July and any remaining days that have not been booked for June. On July 1 at 8 a.m., reserva­tions will be available for the month of August and any remaining days that have not been booked for July. On August 1 at 8 a.m., reservations will be available for the month of September and any remaining days in August that have not been booked. On September 1 at 8 a.m., reservations will be avail­able for October and any re­maining days in September that have not been booked.

A modification from the 2023 pilot system to the 2024 pilot system includes changing the booking time for tickets released the day before from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. MDT. In 2023, the available reservations released the day before were increased to 40 percent of to­tal capacity for each day during the timed entry permit system summer and fall seasons. That appears to be the case for 2024 too.

The 2023 modifi­cation for the re-entry policy at Bear Lake Corridor will continue in 2024 to allow re-entries after 2 p.m. rather than the later 6 p.m. re­quired in 2022.

All timed-entry reservations for RMNP are available at rec­reation.gov. Reservations are expected to run out quickly and visitors are encouraged to plan ahead when possible.

For more details about the timed entry reservation system in RMNP, visit nps.gov/romo.

Mountain_goat_kid_Mt_Evans_2017_13Mountain_goat_kid_Mt_Evans_2017_13Access to Mount Blue Sky (formerly Mount Evans), where wildlife thrive on the high tundra landscape, requires a reservation during their entire summer season. This typically runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting.

Mount Blue Sky Recreation Area and Scenic Byway (formerly Mount Evans)

There are few places in the world where you can drive to an elevation of 14,000 feet on a paved road to take in the awe-inspiring views of the surrounding valleys and mountain peaks. Colorado has two.

Mount Blue Sky, which was renamed in 2023 from its previous name of Mount Evans, has a 14-mile paved road — the highest in North America — that winds and curves to the top of this impressive mountain.

Located just 60 miles west of Denver, Mount Blue Sky is a 14,265-foot mountain that is home to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, yellow-bellied marmots, American pika and many other tundra-loving animals. The road travels to an elevation of 14,130 feet and a short trail from the parking lot at the top takes visitors the remaining 135 feet to the summit.

To visit this impressive mountain requires a timed entry reservation. Seventy-five percent of reservations are released 30 days prior to the date of a visit on a rolling basis, with the first few dates of the 2024 season going on sale May 21. Twenty-five percent of reservations are released two days prior to the date (i.e., June 1 for June 3). The season for the mountain is typically Memorial Day to Labor Day, opening at 8 a.m. on May 31 (weather permitting) this year. A reservation is only required between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

For more information and to make reservations, visit the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest website

Garden_of_the_Gods_CSp_2023_5Garden_of_the_Gods_CSp_2023_5Pikes Peak, a prominent landmark near Colorado Springs, is one of two paved roads in Colorado where you can drive to above 14,000 feet.

Pikes Peak Highway

The second paved road to reach above 14,000 feet in Colorado is the Pikes Peak Highway.

Located just 15 minutes west of Colorado Springs, this 19-mile paved road travels to the summit of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak where there are stunning views and an impressive visitor center that opened in June 2021. There is also a cog railway that climbs to the top of the mountain.

Like Mount Blue Sky, the road to the peak of the mountain that inspired Katharine Lee Bates to write “America the Beautiful” navigates multiple life zones on its way to the tundra.

Open daily year-round, the length of open road on Pikes Peak changes seasonally based on weather. As of April 22, 16 miles of the road is open to vehicle traffic. Operating hours and rates change seasonally but from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the gates to the road are open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Timed entry reservations are required from May 24 to September 30.

For more information and to make a reservation, visit the Colorado Springs website.

Eldorado_Canyon_SP_2023_2Eldorado_Canyon_SP_2023_2The rays of the setting sun peek out from behind a canyon wall in Eldorado Canyon State Park near Boulder, Colorado.

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park is a not-so-hidden gem tucked into sandstone cliffs and towering canyon walls west of Boulder.

Because of its proximity to the populated Front Range, its popularity for world-class climbing routes and limited parking, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which manages the park, implemented a timed entry vehicle reservation system for the inner canyon area of the park in 2022.

Reservations are required to enter the park on Saturdays, Sundays and summer holidays from May 15 to September 15 from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with two-hour entry windows. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Reservations, which are free of charge, can be made up to 30 days in advance with a small number of reservations being released 24 hours in advance. A park pass is always required to enter the park throughout the year. The park also offers a shuttle that takes visitors into the park without the need for a reservation.

For more information and to make a reservation, visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Hanging_Lake_winter_2015_5Hanging_Lake_winter_2015_5Accessing Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs, Colo., requires a reservation throughout the year.

Hanging Lake Recreation Area

Nestled into the mountains along U.S. Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs is a short but steep hike — climbing 1,200 feet in 1.5 miles — up to the unique natural travertine pool of Hanging Lake.

Located in the White River National Forest, this popular destination saw visitation nearly double from 2012 to 2016. As a result, the U.S. National Forest Service, which manages the trail, implemented a timed entry reservation system in 2019 to handle the overcrowded parking lot, traffic along the narrow trail and to protect the fragile ecosystem at the lake.

Reservations are required year-round for this hike from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The trail is closed outside of these times.

Due to the damage from the Grizzly Creek Fire in 2020 and subsequent mudslides, the USFS will reconstruct the trail in summer 2024. The trail is open through April 30, but trail hours will be released on a rolling basis every Tuesday throughout the summer depending on construction starting April 30.

For more information about Hanging Lake and to purchase a reservation, visit Glenwood Springs website.

Moose_79Moose_79Brainard Lake Recreation Area in Roosevelt National Forest is a wonderful mix of alpine lakes, beautiful hikes and wildlife sightings but requires a parking reservation during the busy summer months.

Other outdoor spots requiring reservations

There are several locations in Colorado evaluating the implementation of a timed entry reservation system so this list may change as management plans change. Due to the ongoing popularity of outdoor recreation and the challenges of managing visitation in Colorado, reservations will continue to be the norm in more locations. Research your destination well in advance of any trip, hike or outdoor adventure and remember to be flexible, looking at nearby trails, campgrounds and drives for alternative options.

 


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