Rocky Mountain National Park gradually reopens after emergency disaster declaration

A section of Highway 7 has been washed out south of Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

NPS

Update: As of Sept 26, the Rocky Mountain National Park is 93% open. Gates, roads, visitor centers, and some campgrounds are operating normally, just in time for National Public Lands Day. Backcountry is also open is many areas but conditions are changing daily (this type of use also requires a permit). 

 


 

Towns on the eastern slope of northern Colorado have been devastated by heavy rains and widespread flooding, which started last Thursday Sept 12. In the wake of tragedy across the region, we extend our sincere sympathies to all of those affected. The loss of life and family homes as well as the damages to communities and businesses has been heartbreaking to witness.

As the tragedy sinks in, visitors may be wondering about the state of Rocky Mountain National Park. The park received an more than 12 inches of rain in 24 hours at the peak of the storms - leaving the eastern side under an emergency disaster declaration. (One inch of rain is the equivalent of about a foot of snow). 

Photo: Damage to Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon, one of the main routes to RMNP. By Sheriff Justin Smith

Roads were closed Sept. 12, and trails and campgrounds closed on Friday, Sept. 13, according to the park. On Sept. 18, sections of the park began to reopen, and will continue to as conditions improve. As of Sept 19, the park reports:

  • Trail Ridge Road is open to visitors but closed to commercial traffic. 
  • Entrance stations at Grand Lake, Fall River, and Beaver Meadows are open, and no entrance fees will be charged at this time.
  • Kawuneeche, Alpine, and Beaver Meadows Visitor Centers are open (Fall River Visitor Center is closed for the winter).
  • All trails on the east side of the park remain closed, including Longs Peak, Wild Basin, Lily Lake, Lumpy Ridge, McGraw Ranch/Cow Creek. Most trails are open on the west side, but for day use only. 
  • Bear Lake Road, Upper Beaver Meadows Road, and Old Fall River Road remain closed. Fall River Road is open. 

On the park's Facebook page on Sept. 18,  they announced there had been a number of landslides due to saturated soils. Falling trees continue to be an ever present hazard, the page said. 

RMNP's Facebook page posted this photo of a landslide on the west side of Twin Sisters Peak, Sept. 16

In the height of the record rainfall and flooding, the park had evacuated all visitors by Friday, Sept. 13. That included two climbers who had been stranded on the park's highest mountain, Longs Peak, since Thursday. 

Estes Park, the gateway community to the park, is now reopen for tourism, but the main mountain roads leading there from the front range - Highway 34 and Highway 36 - are severely damaged.  

September and early October are some of the area's best tourism months with local and national visitors coming to see the area's vibrant fall colors and the site of Elk "bugling" both within Rocky Mountain National Park and in areas around the town of Estes Park. 

With no clear answer as to how long it may take to fix the roads, Estes Park's tourist season has effectively ended a full month early.  

Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park in fall. By Steven Bratman.

“The devastation being brought on by this floodwater is almost incomprehensible, especially near the Big Thompson River," said Sheriff Smith of Larimer County.

See photos of damage around Estes Park:  

Estes Park bounds to rebound from ravages of the flood

 

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