NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Rocky Mountain National Park as seen in this Aug. 24, 2016, photo. The park is changing the way backpackers bid for wilderness camping permits.

Rocky Mountain National Park is changing the way backpackers bid for highly desired wilderness camping permits.

The park has announced reservations will move to recreation.gov, away from the traditional in-person lottery and last year’s different online attempt plagued by technical difficulties. Beginning at 8 a.m. March 2 on the increasingly relied-upon website, permits are set to be available to campers planning for Rocky Mountain’s backcountry between May 1 and Oct. 31.

The park reports thousands of campers embark into the undeveloped sectors every year. Permits have been coveted since 1969, when “they were established to conserve and protect resources in Rocky Mountain National Park that we all love,” according to the park’s official Facebook page.

That statement was in response to critics of the reservations costing $36. Permits for years have been $30; $6 is Recreation.gov’s added administrative fee.

Following comments recognizing the national park’s increasing deferred maintenance, one observed: “I know there needs to be a fee charged, but at that price, are the outdoors really accessible to everyone?”

The move comes as Rocky Mountain National Park is considering other price increases. Under a proposal, day passes would go up from $25 to $30, and nightly campground fees would be raised between $5 and $15, depending on place and season.

In response to the backcountry permit changes, some online commenters lamented the third-party help, while others anticipated Recreation.gov to be a better recourse than the previous in-person and virtual draws. The website also manages the daily, timed entry system Rocky Mountain started in 2020 and administers similar systems and camping reservations for several other parks around the country.

Ahead of March 2, a news release advised backcountry seekers to set up a Recreation.gov account and become familiar with the site.

The release also noted a specific feature will be launched that Wednesday to book small groups (up to seven people) and large groups (eight to 12) by searching “Check Availability.” The $36 charge covers all nights and people in a party.

The release said permits will need to be picked up at the park’s wilderness offices.

For more information, go to nps.gov/romo or call the park at 970-586-1206.

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