Popular park users face reservation restrictions this summer
As the days get warmer and outdoor enthusiasts’ hearts turn to venture further afield for adventures at Colorado’s hiking trails, campgrounds and parks, some will find new restrictions on favorite places they once traveled to in the past , where few rules or signs asking for-ups existed.
As COVID hit hard, forcing many of us into lockdown, dozens of people shared indoor conversations and moved to the backcountry. For many, it was their first taste of Colorado’s many outdoor opportunities. What used to be a way to escape the insane crowds, trails, parks and campgrounds has become yet another place full of people.
While there have always been, well, mostly always places that have drawn huge crowds of outdoor enthusiasts, it seems that no place has gone without a massive surge in visitors.
In recent years, the authorities responsible for managing outdoor areas have grappled with how to deal with the increased number of visitors. For example, Maroon Bells has had visitation restrictions for a number of years. Between late May and early October you can drive as far as Maroon Bells. You have to pay $10 per vehicle. However, in high season, the final section of the road is closed to private vehicles between 8am and 5pm and you will need to take a shuttle. Reservation is required now just to use the shuttle bus. Earlier this year it was announced that they would be implementing a reservation system again. Over 300,000 people visit the iconic couple each season and it’s having a serious impact.
“We’ve started to see impacts on trails throughout the area, and it’s just starting to become an overwhelming number,” said David Boyd, the US Forest Service’s public information officer.
Fortunately, the overnight fee and reservation system planned for the Four Pass Loop and other popular locations in the Maroon Bells – Snowmass Wilderness has been suspended until 2023, according to a report by The Aspen Times. This is due to the Forest Service needing more time to come up with the plan and get a system approved. But be honest, it’s coming.
Reservations are still required to visit Conundrum Hot Springs. A major reason for establishing the Conundrum Hot Springs reservation system was that visitors left an inordinate amount of human feces behind. This system helped a lot with this problem.
When Rocky Mountain National Park announced a reservation system for all park visitors starting in May 2022, hundreds of people were concerned about the controversial decision.
Now it looks like Colorado State Parks might follow suit. Due to increased traffic and to ensure a quality experience for all park visitors, some state park officials are considering implementing the same type of reservation systems that national parks such as Rocky Mountain National Park have implemented.
According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife, visitor numbers to Eldorado Canyon State Park have increased 118 percent since 2013, when the park welcomed 247,068 visitors, compared to 539,525 in 2021.
“This increase is being exacerbated by recent pandemic restrictions, changes in current weather patterns, increased population growth and the increasing popularity of outdoor recreation in Colorado,” Carson said. “It’s not expected to fall off.
According to a recent press release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), Eldorado Canyon State Park has proposed a timed entry reservation system to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to address gathering and traffic concerns during weekends and summer vacations.
According to CPW’s press release, the park’s reservation proposal for final consideration to implement this pilot program will be considered during the next meeting of the CPW Commission, to be held over two days, Wednesday 4-5 May. If the pilot program is approved by CPW and state officials, reservations could begin as early as August 2022.
Another problem with the proliferation of people going outdoors is parking at trailheads. The problem has gotten so bad that people are crowding into parking lots that aren’t parking lots. Parking in undesignated areas has sometimes left so little space that emergency vehicles cannot get close enough to dispatch first responders when help is called. This shortens the reaction time and can lead to serious injuries or death of victims.
Another danger of parking in unmarked areas is that a hot catalytic converter could start a fire if you park on dried grass areas.
Please use caution, be patient with other visitors, and respect restrictions as you seek solace in our vast Colorado expanses.
Mueller Park offers a good local alternative to avoid crowds
On the other side of the highway is Mueller State Park. 67, south of Divide, is considered one of the top secret gems in the state park system, according to CPW officials. Mueller doesn’t require reservations except during busy periods such as Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends and the Fourth of July holidays.
Mueller also runs a series of weekend programs where there are scheduled nature walks and educational trips for users conducted by its staff. Some of these are featured regularly in the Mountain Almanac section of TMJ News. Another gem of the nearby state park is Dome Rock, known for its selection of Big Horn Sheep and unique hiking trails.
For more information about Mueller State Park, call 719-687-2366 or visit the website.
In many of these popular park areas, such as B. Mueller, dogs are not allowed due to the abundance of wild animals. Make sure you check with these establishments or visit their website before accompanying your furry best friend on these escapades.