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Yet another hassle awaits Rocky Mountain National Park visitors this year

A hiker. (Spencer McKee/TNS)

As if there weren’t enough complications when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park — an ongoing timed-entry reservation system and the closure of the park’s biggest campground — it will be harder to get into the park this year even if you have reservations.

A construction project to refurbish the Fall River entrance — one of two main entrances on the east side of the park in Estes Park — was supposed to be finished by late June. Now park officials are saying the project, which limits traffic to one lane in each direction, won’t be finished until late fall due to “unforeseen site conditions and utility coordination challenges.”

As a result, park officials are encouraging visitors entering the east side of the park to use the Beaver Meadows entrance — and to expect “extended wait times” at both entrances — which already is often significantly backed up during peak season.

The existing facilities at the Fall River Entrance Station date back 60 years, the park service said, but “no longer meet the safety or operational needs of the park.

“When the entrance station was designed, the park had approximately one and a half million annual visitors. By 2019, annual visitation almost tripled, to over 4.5 million annual visitors. Improvements are needed to improve visitor access and convenience, reduce traffic congestion, and provide a safe and efficient space for park employees,” according to officials.

In 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park imposed a timed-entry reservation system to prevent crowding during the pandemic. The system returned in 2021 as a “pilot program” intended to manage the park’s explosive growth in visitation, and again in 2022. It will also be in effect this year from Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 22 — and could eventually become permanent.

Meanwhile, the park’s largest campground, Moraine Park, will be closed this year for an improvement project. That will cause the loss of 244 campsites, leaving only 202 in developed campgrounds on the east side of the park.


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