Which Colorado Trails Require Reservations? The Definitive 2023 Park and Peak Guide:
Park Access+ is NOT an outdoor streaming service! You'll need it to visit one extremely popular Centennial State destination...
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How to Use this Guide
Increasingly, popular destinations are requiring permits, fees, or imposing some kind of parking restrictions on visitors. This is an alphabetized list aims to categorize them, and provide you with an easy link to reserve your spot.
This is also a growing list, and may not be complete. I’m trying to work from the more popular destinations, and then get to others. If you know of a spot that I’ve missed, please leave a comment and I will work to add it as soon as possible.
A full list of updates and changes is available here, in the footnotes.
Parking at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead is free.
The picnic site and trailhead parking lot does require tickets. Those go on sale May 25th. Different reservations for day and overnight access.
The upper trail heads open in July, and stay open through October.
Mitchell Lake / Beaver Creek
Niwot Picnic Site / Trailhead
DeCaLiBron (Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross)
The DeCaLiBron loop is closed to the public. This situation may be a bit confusing to people who have been paying close attention to what’s going on.
The trail crosses private land. Owner John Reiber said he would be blocking public access, after a liability bill flopped in the Colorado Senate. I don’t want to rehash that story here though. This write up from Gear Junkie is pretty comprehensive.
The confusion comes because the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative still has an active trail work day scheduled for June.
Base Camp News has independently confirmed with CFI that this is because the organization is carrying out a grant-funded project on the lower, publicly owned part of the trail. Basically: the project was locked in when they requested the grant last year.
Between May 20th and September 15th, timed entry reservations are required for all weekends and holidays. These reservations cost $10. However, if you have a Colorado State Parks annual pass, that fee will be waived.
Just be sure you closely follow these instructions posted below, so that you aren’t charged for the fee. There are no refunds once the transaction processes. The reservation is not transferable.
You can also call 1-800-244-5613 to use the reservation line.
You can make reservations up to 30 days in advance. A few reservations will be held for the final few hours before the day-of. If you can’t get either reservation, Boulder County also offers a shuttle:
Mount Evans will open — weather permitting — May 26th. You’re asked to arrive within a two hour window.
There is no location to acquire tickets in person, and a lack of cell service means you absolutely must make your reservation in advance, print it out, and bring it with you.
There are a few fee-free days, but not really. On June 10th and September 24th, you still need reservations, and you still need to pay a $2 processing fee.
And yes, it is still Mount Evans. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe evidently considers the proposed replacement name to be sacrilege. So the process is currently on hold.
Grays and Torreys Peaks
No reservation system is currently required. But if you haven’t been up in a few years: remember that parking on the side of the gulch is banned.
The crackdown happened a few years back; private neighbors along the gulch got tired of visitors double-parking everywhere.
If the upper lot is full, I would consider the “shoulder” along the road to be off limits. You may have to park in the lower lot, which effectively doubles the length of your approach hike — so get up early to hit this one. Or, take the other trail. IYKYK.
Hanging lake has officially reopened for the season.
When the trail does open, reservations will be required. Permits cost $12 per person. You can get them at the link below.
You won’t be allowed to park at the Hanging Lake rest area without one.
This area encompasses many popular Colorado destinations, including the iconic Lone Eagle Peak. It also has one of the more complicated zone-based reservation systems. You also need multiple kinds of permits, depending on where you’re visiting.
Permits go on sale on May 16th, and tend to sell out quickly.
In summer months (June 1st — September 15th,) permits are required for overnight camping. You can make a reservation a full season advance. You’ll have a second chance to buy a permit 3 days before your trip.
But if you are traveling with a large group, (8-12 people) you need a permit for day hikes as well. This requirement exists year-round.
Both large group, and overnight passes cost $11 total. $6 is a non-refundable reservation fee. $5 goes to the actual Indian Peaks recreation fee.
The Manitou incline requires a free reservation. These reservations are for half-hour windows in which you can arrive and begin your climb. You aren’t required to complete the full climb within your reservation slot.
You will need to show proof of your reservation — either on a paper print-out, or your phone.
While the reservation itself is free, parking likely won’t be.
One of the closest available options is the Hiawatha Gardens lot. It costs $1 per hour. A free shuttle runs from here, to the incline every 20 minutes or so.
Reservations will be required to access the Maroon Bells Scenic area, and all related amenities. This applies whether you park at the trailhead or take the Roaring Forks Transportation Authority shuttle.
Trailhead reservations are required from May 15th to October 31.
Shuttle reservations are required from May 26th to October 22th.
Round trip pricing:
$10 Seniors over 65
$10 Children under 12
Camping reservations are separate. You can get them here. Below is a map of the different reservation zones within the area.
If you’d like to drive up to the summit of Pikes Peak and park in the top lot, you will need two kinds of reservations. First: you need to get your timed entry permit for the entire vehicle. This is date and time specific.
Then you need an admission ticket, which is not date or time specific. They cost:
Do take into account: the carload pricing may not be the cheapest option, particularly if you’re traveling with a family. (i.e.: 2 parents and 3 kids = $45 when buying individual tickets.)
Reservations are required from May 26th — September 30th
These reservations will be for 2-hour windows
Reservations can be made up to one month in advance
From June 17th — September 17th, you will need to reserve a spot to park at the Quandary Peak lot.
Their reservation website is not yet live. (This article will be updated when it is.)
But this will be the pricing structure:
Full-Day Reservation 5am-3pm
$30 Monday - Thursday (excluding holidays)
$55 Friday - Sunday (plus holidays)
$10 Monday - Thursday (excluding holidays)
$20 Friday - Sunday (plus holidays)
You can also take the shuttle — which costs $7 if you’re not a summit county resident. Either way you need to make a reservation to take the shuttle. You’ll need to upload proof you’re a local to avoid paying. You’ll need to bring proof of payment to board the shuttle, too.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Timed entry is coming back May 25th — with a twist! Now featuring two tiers: the basic “Park Access,” and the luxurious, premium, “Park Access+.” The plus grants you access to more areas of the park. Confusingly, both tickets cost the same amount, but appear to have different entry windows.
This is separate from campsite reservations and park entry fees. Those can be found here.
Another important update: if you’re buying your access passfrom a park entry station: credit cards only. I actually have some suspicions this may be related to my past investigation into campsite reservations.
The gist was: some park employees were misusing the reservation system. Auditors were worried it was possible for unscrupulous staff members to dupe visitors, and shake them down for cash. I’m linking the full story here, if you’re curious:
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St. Mary’s Glacier
This extremely popular trail is on Forest Service land, but the only legal parking lots are privately owned. Hikers recently visiting the area have reported significant increase in parking fees from $5, up to $20.
You’ll need to bring cash for the self-pay fee station or you run the risk of being towed.
-St. Mary’s paid parking
-New zone information about Maroon Bells
This is different from your timed entry permit. That has to be bought in advance.
All places that should be avoided! Plenty of empty places in Colorado that are just as scenic as any of these.
In addition to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness also requires backcountry permits for overnight stays in a much broader area:https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/whiteriver/recarea/?recid=81118