Are you planning a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park this year? If so, a few proposed management approaches to mitigate the huge crowds, long lines of traffic, and lack of parking could improve the quality of your visit.

The number of visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park has grown dramatically in recent years, increasing from 3 million visits in 2010 to a peak of 4.6 million visits in 2019. As a former deputy superintendent at Rocky Mountain, I know from firsthand experience that this rapid growth in visitation impacts natural and cultural resources, diminishes the quality of the visitor experience, and creates a heavy strain on the park’s facilities and staff.

Park management has recognized the problems and they are developing a plan to alleviate the mounting negative impacts on the park and the visitor experience. For the last several years, the park has piloted a timed entry system that limited the numbers of visitors entering the park on an hourly basis. The experimental entry system successfully spread-out park visitors over longer periods of time. Park staff report that visitors are less stressed and enjoying their experience more.
The planning process to establish more permanent measures to promote resource protection and visitor enjoyment will be presented in a draft plan that should be released later this year. Right now, there are some suggested strategies available for public comment with a deadline of February 1, 2023. Visit the park website to learn more.

I also encourage you to submit your own comments in support of the park’s proposals, including the use of a timed entry system. Comments are open until February 1, 2023.

Sheridan Steele served as the deputy superintendent at Rocky Mountain National Park and retired as the superintendent of Acadia National Park & St. Croix Island International Historic Site in 2015 after 38 years with National Park Service. Sheridan is a member of the Executive Council of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.