Frequently Asked Questions on Timed Entry Permit System at Rocky Mountain National Park
Why is Rocky Mountain National Park implementing a Timed Entry Permit System?
On June 4, 2020, park staff implemented a timed entry system to increase park access while providing the public a reasonable opportunity to comply with COVID-19 public health guidelines. This system will more safely manage the pace and flow of visitor use, reduce crowding, and provide an improved visitor experience commensurate with the park’s safe operational capacity.
Rocky Mountain National Park is the third most visited national park in the country with over 4.6 million visitors last year. Visitors experience a high level of congestion in many areas of the park from late May through early October. In 2019, visitation from June through September was over 3.2 million visitors. In July of last year alone, almost 1 million people visited the park.
How do I create an account in Recreation.gov?
It’s easy! Go to Recreation.gov and click on “Sign Up” in the top right corner. From there, follow the prompts to create an account. You must have an account to make a reservation and we recommend creating your account well in advance of applying for your permit.
How do I make a reservation?
Once you set up an account you will select the day of your visit and your preferred time, add it to your cart and make the payment. Visit the Recreation.gov Help Center article for more details on purchasing a permit.
You will receive an email confirmation with an attached permit. Print out a copy of your permit. If you are planning to access an outlying area of the park you must have a printed copy of your permit on your dashboard (see question below).
How far in advance can I make my reservation?
Reservations will go on sale through Recreation.gov at 8 a.m. Mountain time on Thursday, May 28. Those reservations will be for June 4 through July 31. The next release will be on July 1, for the month of August and any remaining days that have not been booked for July. On August 1, reservations will be available for the month of September and any remaining days that have not been booked for August. On September 1, reservations will be available for the month of October and any remaining days in September that have not been booked.
How many reservations are you planning to allow each day?
The initial opening phase allocates approximately 60 percent of the park’s maximum parking capacity which works out to 13,500 visitors per day, or 4,800 vehicles. Park staff will monitor our ability to operate with present health guidelines and adapt the system accordingly.
What times will the permits be issued for?
The timed entry system will provide for advanced daily reservations for private vehicles. The booking system will be for arrivals, in blocks of two hours beginning at 6 a.m. through 5 p.m. For example, 6-8 a.m., 8-10 a.m., 10 a.m.-noon, etc. It includes advance payment of entrance fees, minimizing contact between park entrance station staff and visitors. The permit system will apply to all areas of the park (see below for more information).
Can I leave at any time?
Yes. There is no length-of-stay requirement, you may leave the park at any time. The only restriction is on when you can enter the park. You must enter within your reserved 2-hour window.
Once I’ve entered the park, can I exit and re-enter?
Yes. Once you’ve entered the park during your two- or three-hour entry window, you can exit and re-enter the park as often as needed for the rest of day.
Do annual/senior pass holders have to get a permit?
Yes. A timed entry reservation is needed to enter the park even if you have an existing pass. Annual passes are for the payment of entrance fees, so in this case an annual pass holder will only need to pay the $2 reservation fee. The goal of the timed entry system is to allow the park to open in a way that gives visitors and staff an opportunity to comply with Federal, State and Local COVID-19 public health guidelines. Therefore, all park users will need to participate in the reservation system to ensure visitation is at levels where those guidelines can be followed.
How much does it cost to get a permit/reservation?
A private vehicle timed entry reservation permit day pass is $25.00, plus a $2.00 reservation fee. If you hold a valid Interagency Annual Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park Annual Pass or Senior Pass, you will just have to pay the $2.00 reservation fee.
Can I get a refund?
You may cancel your timed entry reservation up to 24 hours prior to your visit.
Can I resell or transfer my reservation?
No. All permits are non-transferable.
Does the Timed Entry Permit System apply to all areas of the park?
Yes. A timed entry permit is required to enter ALL areas of Rocky Mountain National Park—including Trail Ridge Road (US Hwy 34)—when arriving by vehicle between the hours of 6 am and 5 pm whether a visitor parks within the park or outside the park boundary. An entrance pass is required 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This includes but is not exclusive to Lumpy Ridge, Lily Lake, Longs Peak, Wild Basin, East Inlet, and North Inlet.
Do I need to print a permit and put on my dashboard at outlying areas?
Yes. If you are planning to visit one of the park’s outlying areas, please print and display your timed entry permit on your dashboard. In addition, please be prepared to show a ranger your permit if asked.
If I am visiting the park for two days, do I make a reservation for each day separately?
Yes. You will need to make a reservation for each day of your visit. In this first phase of the timed entry system weekly passes are not available. The goal of the timed entry system is to allow the park to open in a way that gives visitors and staff the opportunity to comply with Federal, State and Local COVID-19 public health guidelines. In order to ensure that the park meets that visitation level where those guidelines can be met, visitors must have a reservation for each day of their visit. This allows the park to have an accurate visitor count for each day. The weekly pass will be incorporated when guidance changes and we are able to increase the daily visitor totals.
How flexible is the reservation system? Is there any possibility of getting a pass at the last minute?
The reservation system does allow for some limited last minute reservations. They typically sell out very quickly, often within five minutes. Ten percent of the total available reservations will go on sale 2 days prior and will be available up to the timed entry window they are for, provided they have not been sold out. Those reservations will go on sale at 8 a.m. Mountain time, two days prior to the date of visit, but again, these are selling out rapidly, often within five minutes.
I don’t have a computer and/or smart phone. Can I pick this permit up and/or purchase this in person?
All timed entry reservations must be made in advance through recreation.gov, either online or through the recreation.gov mobile app. There are no same day sales at the park or through park offices. Many public libraries have free computer access available.
How does the permit system apply to those with campground reservations and Wilderness Camping permits?
Visitors with campground reservations and wilderness camping permits will use those permits as their timed entry reservations. You may enter the park on the first day of your camping reservation. Entrance fees apply and can be paid at the entrance station. Visitors must have these camping permits in advance. There will be no same day sales at the park’s campgrounds. Visitors must have their camping reservation confirmation visible.
What about reservations for horseback riding?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic concerns and restrictions, the interior livery concessioner within Rocky Mountain National Park will initially not be operating. These operations may begin later this summer. There are many liveries adjacent to the park who provide horseback riding opportunities into the park.
Can I access trails using these permits?
Your timed entry reservation allows you access to the park, including trails.
Are shuttle buses running this summer? How does that work?
The park shuttle bus system is operating this year on the in-park route; Bear Lake and Moraine Park Routes. The shuttle bus schedule will be the same as previous years and can be found on the park’s website and at park shuttle stops. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, shuttles will be limited to 20 percent of the bus capacity or about 15 riders per shuttle. This may change as new guidance comes out.
With a permit, am I guaranteed a parking place and access to all areas such as Bear Lake Road, Alpine Visitor Center and Wild Basin?
No. Your timed entry reservation permit guarantees your access to the park on that day and during that time window. The reservation only applies to access to the park, it does not guarantee access to all locations within the park. The most popular areas of the park such as Bear Lake, Alpine Visitor Center and Wild Basin could still experience vehicle restrictions due to parking limitations and congestion.
What if I just want to drive through the park on Trail Ridge Road and not stop in the park to recreate or use facilities or services? (For example, Trail Ridge Road shortens my travel route to another location or destination.)
A Commuter Permit is available for permanent residents of Boulder, Grand and Larimer counties whose permanent address is within 50 miles of a park entrance station. This permit is for non-stop, non-recreational travel through the park. No recreational use is permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park when using this permit. Visit the Commuter Permits page for details.
How does this apply to Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA) or Special Use Permits (SUP)?
Commercial Use Authorizations (CUA), Special Use Permits (SUP), Concessioners and Commercial Tours do not need a timed entry reservation for their trips into the park. Their permitted use is being accounted for in the overall reservation system and constitutes less than 3 percent of park visitation. Operators with specific questions on group size limits and COVID-19 guidelines should contact the park’s Commercial Services office at 970-586-1209.
Do bicycles have to get permits?
At this time, if you are entering the park via bicycle you will not need a timed entry reservation, however you will need to pay the appropriate park entrance fees at the entrance stations.