Want to visit Rocky Mountain NP this year? I’m sharing everything you need to know to get a timed entry permits and reservation for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park!
If you’ve explored any sort of national park in the last two years, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed by now the unfolding of an inconvenient new entry permit system. Rocky Mountain National Park is no exception and their entry permit reservation system is one of the most difficult permits to obtain.
As the 3rd most visited National Park in the USA, crowding and congestion are a big issue. I can’t say I’m a big fan of more regulation, but it is what it is.
In this blog, I’m sharing everything you need to know to about entry permits and reservations to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Timed Entry Permit
Between May 27th and October 10th of 2022, an entry permit is required to enter Rocky Mountain National Park.
This permit is required in addition to the park Entrance Fee/Park Pass. See daily, weekly, and annual rates here.
You DO NOT need an entry permit during the winter and part of spring.
The reason it’s called a timed Entry permit is because when you have your permit, it allows you to ENTER the park within a 2-hour period. This means that outside of that 2-hour window, rangers will not let you pass through any of the entrance stations. Once inside, you can stay as long or as short as you want within the day of your reservation. Once you’ve entered the park once at your allotted entry time, you can exit and re-enter the park as much as you need to for the rest of that day.
This permit is free however there is $2 non-refundable processing fee.
Related – 25+ Greatest Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
Who Needs A Rocky Mountain National Park Entry Permit AKA I Already Have Reservations
If you have an in-park camping reservation, a wilderness camping permit, or a service reservation such as horseback riding reservation or a commercial tour then you DO NOT need to obtain a timed entry permit.
Make sure you print, download, or screenshot your reservation details for these things because you will have to show this to the ranger at the entrance station to function your timed entry permit.
If your reservations are for Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, or Aspenglen Campgrounds, then your entry permit lets you access Bear Lake Corridor but if your reservation is for Timber Creek Campground, you will not have access to Bear Lake Corridor.
Even if you have a pass—whether that’s a senior pass, an annual pass, or a military pass, anyone without a service reservation needs a timed permit to visit for the day.
If you plan on visiting early in the morning or in the evening, you might not need a permit. Click here to jump to the section about this.
Related – Colorado Road Trip: Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verde National Park
Bear Lake Road Access Vs No Bear Lake Road Access
There are 2 different versions of the Timed Entry Permit:
- One permit includes access to Bear Lake Corridor (the most popular area of the park) plus the the rest of the national park
- The other permit gives you access to the whole park but it excludes Bear Lake Corridor
If the Bear Lake permit includes the entire park too, why would anyone want the other permit? Well, it’s much easier to obtain!
Related: Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Bear Lake Corridor
When Can I Reserve A Rocky Mountain National Park Permit & How Far Out Can I Reserve My Permit?
- To visit the park from May 27th to June 30th, permits will become available on May 2nd at 10am MDT
- To visit the park in July, permits will become available on June 1st at 10am MDT
- To visit the park in August, permits will become available on July 1st
- To visit the park in September, permits will become available on August 1st
- To visit the park in October, permits will become available on September 1st
Permits become available at 10am MDT on Recreation.gov the said day of release.
Of course, when you search for permits, remaining days for sooner dates will also be shown. So if on June 1st you are looking for July reservations, any remaining June permits will also be shown.
25-30% of all available permits are withheld for day-before reservations. This means that at 5pm each night (during permit season), a small amount of permits will be released for the next day.
For those who didn’t plan ahead, this can allow for a possibility to still visit. Or, these can be great for people already in the area looking to go on a last minute hiking trip.
How To Reserve Your Permit
Reserving your permit online is easy.
- First, head to Recreation.gov and set up your account in advance.
- On the day of permits being released, head to Recreation.gov & make sure you’re logged into your account BEFORE permits are released.
- Search for “Rocky Mountain National Park Timed Entry” on Recreation.gov or just click here.
- At 10am MDT refresh the webpage, select the day you plan to visit, add it to your cart, and then go through payment.
- Once you complete the purchase, you’ll get a confirmation email.
- Be sure to either print, download, to screenshot the confirmation email details to take with you on the day of your reservation.
If you don’t want to reserve online, you can also call:
- Reservation Line: 877-444-6777
- Reservation International: 606-515-6777
- Reservation Line (TDD) 877-833-6777
Related – Rocky Mountain to Grand Teton National Park Road Trip
You Don’t Alway Need A Permit
The reservation process may seem very overwhelming, but believe or not, you might not need a permit.
For all areas of the park outside of bear lake corridor, you do not need a reservation/permit before 9am and after 3pm.
On the bear lake Corridor, you do not need a reservation/permit before 5 am or after 6 pm.
This doesn’t help much if you’re planning on doing a big day hike, but it could be helpful for casual visitors and beginner hikers.
Think about how much time do you need in the park? What hike are planning on doing? Is it a hike you could squeeze into a morning or evening? Is weather permitting for an evening hike?
Common Questions About The Rocky Mountain National Park Entry Permits
What if I’m visiting for 2 days?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to obtain two separate nervation permits. Pro tip: Have someone else in your party reserve the other day on a separate device at same time as you in order to save time and better your chance of securing 2 consecutive days
What if I just want to drive Trail Ridge Road?
If you don’t plan on stopping to hike or explore, you probably don’t need a permit. Before 9am and after 3pm, you can drive Trail Ridge Road without a permit.
Do I need I permit to bike or hike into the park?
You DO NOT need a timed entry permit to bike into Rocky Mountain National Park. Technically, the same goes for walking but I have no idea who would do that.
Hope this helped you plan your upcoming trip toe Rocky Mountain National Park!
Don’t forget to check out our other resources on visiting Rocky Mountain NP:
- 25+ Greatest Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Guide to Hiking at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
- Grand Teton to Rocky Mountain National Parks Road Trip
- Tips for Visiting & Camping in rocky Mountain National Park
- Colorado Road Trip: From Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verda National Parks