May 17, 2024 - Things to Do

Where you need reservations to hike and explore in Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park sign

Photo: Ron Buskirk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Colorado's mountains are so well-loved that you need a reservation to enter the most popular places.

Here's what you need to know:

Rocky Mountain National Park: Starting May 24, and going through mid-October, you'll need a timed-entry reservation to enter the state's most famous national park between 9am and 2pm. The reservation cost is $2 in addition to the entry fee and expect long lines at the main entrance gates.

  • Bear Lake requires separate reservations 5am-6pm.
  • If you go: You can book online up to a month ahead of time, or at 7pm the night before you want to go — that's when the park service releases 40% of the available passes.

Mount Blue Sky: Score a reservation starting May 21 for when the highest paved road in North America to the 14,266-foot summit opens May 31. They are available up to a month in advance.

  • Caveat: The gate closes the day after Labor Day and won't reopen in 2025 as crews begin a construction project to repair the road.

Brainard Lake: Limited parking at Brainard Lake means you need a dedicated time to drive into the recreational area within the Indian Peaks Wilderness when it opens in mid-June.

  • Slots open up May 23 on a rolling 15-day window. The reservation fee is $2 and entry fee is $14 for a personal vehicle.
  • Parking also is available at the Brainard Gateway Trailhead two miles from the lake.

Eldorado Canyon: To access this climbing mecca and great hiking spot on weekends and summer holidays May 15 through Sept. 15, you'll need an advanced reservation.

  • You can book a two-hour window to visit from 5:30am-5:30pm. 90% of the parking spots can be secured up to 30 days in advance, and the final are released the day before.
  • Pro tip: If you can't get a spot, take the Eldo Shuttle, which starts May 25 at various locations in Boulder County.
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