Planning to visit RMNP this year? A few things you should know:
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of 4 national parks we have here in Colorado, and itís by far the one with the most fishing destinations. Due to the nature of wildlife, the size, the unique views, and its proximity to Denver, Rocky receives millions of visitors every year. For those of us heading up to fish some of the gorgeous lakes and rivers, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First off- if you have a specific trailhead youíre wanting to walk and fish, get there early. Due to limited parking at many of the trailheads, especially during the summer months, spaces fill up. Otherwise, you could spend undue time circling the parking lot, or parking somewhere youíre not supposed to be and risk getting towed. And yes, vehicles DO get towed.
Timed entry system; know it. Starting in 2021, RMNP and now other Nationals Parks and federal recreation areas are implementing a timed entry system. Basically a way to try and cut down on congestion, especially in certain areas of the park. As of this writing, hereís how the system works-
If youíre looking to ENTER the park between 9am-3pm between May 26th-October 22nd you WILL need a timed entry pass; essentially a ticket for your specific vehicle to get into the park, along with your daily park pass fee. This goes for ANY area of the park and any entrance, regardless of if youíre wanting to hit the Bear Lake corridor or not. If youíre looking to hit the Bear Lake Road corridor at all, you will need a timed entry pass, unless you want to cross the threshold of the Bear Lake corridor before 5am, which is just a little south of the Beaver Meadows entrance. This includes areas like Moraine Park, Sprague Lake, etc.
Now, again you can get around the timed entry system by, for example, entering the park via any entrance before 9am, as long as you donít go to the Bear Lake Road corridor. However, if you leave the park to grab lunch at Smokiní Daveís, and then head to Avant Garde Aleworks for a beer (which I would highly recommend), then you WILL need a timed entry pass to enter back into the park. More info on getting your timed entry pass, as well as the different purchase options, can be found at recreation.gov.
Road conditions; probably something that is overlooked but still important, especially early in the season or late in the season. Mostly what youíre looking for is the status of Trail Ridge Rd, and Old Fall River Rd. Typically Trail Ridge Rd opens up sometime in May, and Typically Old Fall River Rd opens up completely sometime in July. This season specifically there is major construction happening on the Fall River Rd entrance. Expect delays and more traffic if you plan on using that entrance this summer.
All of this info can be found at nps.gov/romo or by calling into the RMNP info line at (970) 586-1206.
Lastly, and most important- know the fishing regulations. The normal statewide regulations apply, but RMNP has a lot more very specific regulations inside the park and the regulations even vary from body of water to body of water. Hence why knowing the regulations is so important. In addition to the stated regulations, several other things are encouraged but not enforced as law, for example: itís encouraged that in ALL waters barbless hooks be used, but only in waters labeled as ďcatch-and-release onlyĒ are barbless hooks required. These signs are pretty unmistakable, and clearly state a $500 fine. Not for nothing, I donít really feel like itís worth risking a $500 fine and up to 6 months in jail just to make sure a small greenback doesnít wriggle off the hook, but thatís just me. Especially since itís been pointed out to me that many of those greenbacks we fish for arenít TRUE greenbacks.
A side note about these regulations. There is a 2 hook limit for your rig, regardless of body of water. Meaning if you plan on fly fishing, you cannot have 3 flies hooked up at one time, even if theyíre all barbless. And if you plan on using lures, particularly stick baits with multiple treble hooks, just be careful. If a ranger really wants to be particular, you could get fined for that because thatís technically 6 hooks, unless you swap out the treble hooks for single barb stinger hooks.
If you have any questions about the complexity of the regs, donít hesitate to reach out to the info line mentioned above, get to a representative, and then ask for the wilderness office. Otherwise, donít hesitate to reach out to ME directly via my skipper link on here. These are regs Iíve combed over, know, and have verified with rangers up in the park.
Rocky Mountain National Park truly is an amazing place to visit and see wildlife including the fish. If we all do our part, itís a place we can continue to enjoy for years to come.