Read More about what’s changed for taking photos in Rocky Mountain National Park with their Timed Entry Reservation System in 2022
Not long after COVID started, there was a renewed interest in public lands like Rocky Mountain National Park and other National Parks. To help limit exposure and then impact on the landscape the Parks system started using a new timed entry reservation system during peak season. I spend a lot of time photographing couples in Rocky Mountain National Park so I just want to go over what to expect there this coming year. Although a lot of different parks across the country are doing timed entry permits, this blog post will focus on the specifics of Rocky Mountain National Park and details for what they have planned in 2022.
General Information about Rocky Mountain National Park’s Timed Entry Reservations
To keep up to date on changes visit Rocky Mountain National Park’s website about their timed entry permits here. As of today, this is what they have planned for this year. Timed entry reservations will be required starting May 27th and will end October 10th. This is the block of time when its the busiest in the park. To get a reservation you’ll need to go through recreation.gov to purchase it online. You’ll have two options once the reservations become available, one for the Bear Lake Corridor and one for All Other Parts of the Park Excluding Bear Lake Road. The cost of the reservation is $2 which the park is charging as a processing fee. If you already have a Parks pass you can opt to pay the $2 and then show your pass at the gate when you arrive. If you don’t have a pass you can pay the day fee to get into the park along with the $2 processing fee all online when you make the reservation. The reservations will be available in 2 hour time blocks. For example, you might be able to book a reservation which will allow you to enter into the park sometime between 8am-10am on a specific day.
Are There Times When You Don’t Need a Timed Entry Permit?
Yes, there are times when you can get into the park without a timed entry reservation even during the peak season when they are requiring it. If you’re an early bird, you can enter into the park without a reservation for the Bear Lake Corridor Before 5AM or after 6PM. But they have been pretty strict about things lately so if you get there right at 5am expect to be turned away if you didn’t set something up. And if you’re headed to any other part of the park excluding the Bear Lake Corridor, you can arrive before 9AM or after 3PM without a reservation.
Another exception is if you’re going with a service guide you don’t need a reservation. For example, I have a service guide permit for photography that is good for the year of 2022 inside Rocky Mountain National Park. This allows me to enter into the park with clients at anytime without the need of a reservation. For portraits, it makes the whole experience way easier for me and my clients. We can meet outside the park and then drive to our destination in a caravan without making any other reservations. The day pass fee is still applicable for everyone who is able to enter without a reservation. For surprise proposals, its a little bit trickier. Since its a surprise and I arrive early, my client still has to set up a reservation depending on what time we go because I can’t be their guide as we’re entering through the gate.
When Do The Reservations Go on Sale?
In general the time entry reservations for May will start going on sale May 2nd. They will only be releasing a certain amount of reservations at a time. Starting 5/2 you can reserve a timed entry permit for the dates between 5/27-6/30. Then on June 1st they’ll open up time slots through July. July 1st they’ll open up time slots through August, and so on. To see more details about when all the reservations will be available, check their website here. If you’re unable to get a reservation for your desired date, they will also have a limited number of reservations available for purchase starting the day prior to the current date at 5PM.
Tips and Questions about Timed Entry Permits
Here are some tips if you’re planning on taking photos in the Park or just coming to enjoy the landscape.
- Plan ahead. National Parks have gotten really busy lately. Rocky Mountain National Park reported a 42% increase in traffic over the past 7 years. So the more you plan ahead the better. Even though there are a small amount of passes that will be available the day before, they usually fill up fast. You’ll have more options if you can do your planning and reservations early on.
- Know where you want to go. Since the reservations are split up by 2 different zones in the park, think about where you want to go ahead of time and make sure you pick the right location when making the reservation. Maps and information are available on the Park website. The Bear Lake Corridor is basically anything that branches off from Bear Lake Road. If you have to turn down Bear Lake Road to get there, you’ll need the Bear Lake Corridor reservation. If you don’t have to turn down Bear Lake Road to get to where you want to go, you’ll want the other pass for Park Access with No Bear Lake Road.
- Check park updates and alerts before visiting. The park releases alerts on their website and also on Twitter with information on things like seasonal road closures or construction updates. These are especially important if you want to drive along Trail Ridge Road which closes for a good amount of the season due to weather.
If you have more questions about Timed Entry Reservation Permits, check out the FAQ section of the Rocky Mountain National Park’s page all about Timed Entry Permits. Its towards the bottom of the page. Have fun and be safe in the park!