Before you take that trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, make sure you have secured a timed-entry permit. This is a new requirement for visiting the national park during the busy summer and autumn season. Read more about it below.

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Visitation to Rocky Mountain National Park has grown so much over the years that it has begun to take a significant toll on the health of the park itself and on the visitor experience. Over the last years, the trails have become so busy that it has greatly detracted from the experience of being in nature. To address these problems, the National Park Service created a permit system that limits the number of people who can enter the park each day and spreads out the time of visitor arrivals to limit congestion. This system is used during the busy season, late May through mid-October. It has made the experience in the park much better with less-crowded trails and more of a chance to witness the wonder of this place. It may still seem busy to you when you visit, but it was much busier before this system was implemented.

How it works:

Erik Stensland

Timed-entry permits need to be purchased in advance online. They specify which day and what time you are allowed to enter. You also must show a national park (interagency) pass to gain entry. If you don’t have a national park pass, they can be purchased at the entry station, but not the timed-entry permits.

You always need a park pass to enter Rocky Mountain National Park, but from late May through mid-October you will also need a timed-entry permit to enter the park during peak hours (9am-3pm for most of the park, 5am-6pm for Bear Lake Road area). Without a timed-entry permit you cannot get into the park during these hours. Once you have your permit validated, you can then come in and out of the park as needed for the rest of the day. The timed-entry permits are valid for one vehicle. You do not need a permit for each person.

If you were not able to obtain a permit, you are not completely out of luck. You just have to arrive before the permitting time begins in the morning or after the permitting time ends in the afternoon or evening. (9am-3pm for most of the park, 5am-6pm for Bear Lake Road area)

How to Obtain a Timed-Entry Permit:

The timed-entry permits usually go on sale on the first of each month at 10am at www.Recreation.gov. They sell permits for the following month. So, if you want to visit in July, you’ll want to purchase your permit when they go on sale on June 1st. If you missed this opportunity, you still have a chance to get a permit. Some percentage of each day’s allotted permits are saved and made available at 5pm the evening before the date. So, if you were visiting on July 10th and forgot to get your permit on June 1st, you could try at 5pm on July 9th. Be aware that these last-minute permits tend to sell out within a minute or two.

Here’s the process:

1. Before you can purchase a permit, you’ll need to setup an account with www.Recreation.gov. I suggest doing this in advance. If you already have a national park pass such as an interagency annual park pass, a golden age senior pass, military pass, or other, you can enter that into your profile.

2. You’ll then need to navigate to the page for Rocky Mountain National Park. On that page you’ll see several different permit options such as campground permits, wilderness camping permits, etc.. You’ll want to select “Rocky Mountain National Park Timed Entry”.

3. Here you will have two choices. “Bear Lake Rd Corridor + Full Park Access” or “Park Access (Excludes Bear Lake Rd Corridor)”. The Bear Lake Road area is the busiest place in the park and so has its own permitting system which runs from 5am until 6pm. If you choose this option, you can visit the popular areas along Bear Lake Road plus all the rest of the park, but these permits are likely to sell out first. If you choose the second option, you can visit everywhere else in the park except for the Bear Lake Road Corridor. The rest of the park falls under the permitting system from 9am-3pm and this permit is often easier to obtain.

4. Next you’ll select the date and time you want to enter and add it to your cart. Once it is in your cart, no one else can purchase it and you can select other dates you would like to enter. You have at least 5 minutes of inactivity before your selections are removed from your cart and made available to others.

5. Lastly, you’ll go through the checkout process and pay for the permits. When you complete this, you’ll be sent a confirmation via email. You can either print this out to show at the park entrance station or you can show them the confirmation email on your phone.

The cost for timed-entry permits is just $2 per day. This website is an external contractor, not the National Park Service. The National Park does not receive any income for this permitting system. The fee goes to the recreation.gov service to pay for their administration of this system.

The timed-entry permit system continues to change as the national park tries to refine the system. For the most up-to-date information from the national park about the timed-entry permit system, visit: HikingRocky.com/permit.

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