Colorado state parks set new annual visitation records in 2020

Colorado state parks continue to see huge increases in visitation this year, so much so that by the end of October, 13 of the 15 parks in the northeast region surpassed the highest 12-month totals they’d recorded in the past four years.

The picture was far different at Rocky Mountain National Park, where visitation through the end of October was 32% below that of last year due to the pandemic and two wildfires. Lack of access to the park may have played a role in the increase of visitation at state parks, along with the closure of health clubs and other reactions by the public caused by the pandemic. State parks did not close.

Rocky Mountain National Park was closed for two months, from March 20 until May 27, due to COVID-19, and when it reopened, it operated on a timed-entry reservation system through Oct. 13 as a pandemic measure that suppressed numbers. Nine days later, the park closed again for two weeks due to the East Troublesome fire. There also were partial closures related to the Cameron Peak fire and construction in the park.

Meanwhile, Chatfield State Park recorded 2,162,977 visitors through October, the most recent month for which Colorado Parks and Wildlife has figures, as compared to 1,736,032 for all of 2017. Golden Gate Canyon had 1,527,852 through October, as compared to 1,045,131 in 2019.

Other state parks with big increases over their four-year highs, according to CPW, include:

  • North Sterling, 413,862 through October as compared to 158,019 in 2017
  • Staunton, 254,528 through October vs. 104,922 in 2016
  • Boyd Lake, 729,807 through October vs. 578,946 in 2019
  • Castlewood Canyon, 251,528 through October, 47,000 more than 2019
  • Jackson Lake, 303,102 through October vs. 208,833 in 2019
  • Eleven Mile, 394,777 through October vs. 345,434 in 2018
  • Roxborough, 186,095 through October, vs. 152,941 in 2019

Cherry Creek and Eldorado Canyon are the only two parks in the northeast region that haven’t surpassed four-year highs this year, although the 1,813,890 at Cherry Creek through October was nearly 260,000 more than last year.

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