According to the USDA Forest Service, the year of 2020 brought a 200 percent increase in outdoor recreation across Colorado's northern Front Range, which included a large number of first-time trailgoers and campers.
With so many people headed to Colorado's natural areas, parking issues, long lines, irresponsible camping, and crowded trails became major pain points for those maintaining the space. As a result, managers of Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, along with Pawnee National Grassland, are looking into new strategies to that will encourage more responsible use. This will most likely mean a number of limitations and changes being put in place in these areas for summer of 2021.
One change that's coming will be a timed-entry pass system for those seeking to access Mount Evans and Brainard Lake. Pass sales are expected to be available by late May, with Mount Evans likely to open on June 4 and Brainard Lake likely to open on June 11. The exact plan for this process is still being developed. At this point, it is unclear if the pass system will apply to all users or just those in vehicles and if the pass system will apply to those accessing Mount Evans from less common routes like the Sawtooth.
In addition to these timed-entry changes, it's likely that some areas will be made day-use-only sites – a result of irresponsible camping outside of developed campsites. Officials hope this will allow these spots to heal.
It's also worth noting that approximately 25 percent of Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests will likely be closed to the public while officials assess major wildfire damage caused in 2020. Heavy fire restrictions are also expected to be put in place.
According to Forest Service representatives, more information will come out in following days and weeks as various parts of the plan for summer are finalized.
As more Coloradans continue to enjoy outdoor recreation, it's crucial to take responsible public lands use seriously. Plan before you go by making yourself aware of the rules and processes in place and know that what you did one year might not be allowed this year. Always follow the rules of Leave No Trace.