Public land managers bracing for another summer of crowded trails, overflowing parking lots

“We’re going to do our best, given the resources we have,” White River National Forest supervisor says

John Meyer
The Denver Post

With Memorial Day looming and summer vacation travel not far behind, public land managers and the Colorado tourism industry are bracing for another summer of crowded trails, overflowing parking lots and likely damage to recreation resources.

Outdoor recreation in the state has grown steadily over the past decade, but following a year that saw an explosive surge driven by the pandemic, there are no signs that that trend is going to reverse.

“All the indices within the tourism industry, the travel industry, are telling us people are coming — and lots of them,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest. “If it’s anything like last year — and many predictions are that it will be more than last year — we expect a lot of people on the forest.”

With new reservation systems, regulations increasing and even more visitors anticipated, the consistent refrain this year from public-lands managers and tourism officials is simple: Do your homework, know before you go, and have a backup plan in case you need to adjust when you get there.

Rocky Mountain National Park will have a timed-entry reservation system again this year, beginning Memorial Day weekend. Officials of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests this week announced similar systems to manage visitation at two of their most scenic attractions, Brainard Lake and the Mount Evans road from Echo Lake to the peak’s 14,265-foot summit.

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