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Spring is in full swing, and hikers across the country are breathing a sigh of relief as warm weather and increased vaccine availability herald the return of a (somewhat) more normalized season.
However, there are some new rules at some of the nation’s most popular hiking destinations that backpackers should be aware of. Last summer’s surge in new hikers resulted in instances of oversuse, overcrowding, and new measures to promote Covid safety. To prevent the first two from happening again, and to continue to guard against the virus, public lands across the country are altering their usual visitation rules.
Most recently, Colorado’s Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests announced timed reservation systems for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and Mt. Evans, a Colorado Fourteener. Brainard is the most popular site in the area, and Mt. Evans is known as one of the easiest Fourteeners to tick off, as a road goes almost all the way to the summit.
Elsewhere in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park will continue to use a reservation system for park access between May 28 and October 11. This year, there are two types of reservations available: one for the ultra-popular Bear Lake area that also allows visitation to the rest of the park, and another that excludes Bear Lake and its surroundings. Rocky is basing the reservations on 75 to 85 percent of parking capacity, in contrast to last year’s 60 percent limit.
In the northeast, the Adirondack Mountain Reserve in upstate New York is also thinning crowds via a parking reservation system. This one, in operation between May 1 and October 31, is limited to the 70 parking spots on the reserve’s lands, which allow access to the High Peaks region. (One of the main reasons the Reserve has cited for the new rules is to reduce illegal parking on roadways, so hikers who take a bus to the area will not have to make a reservation.)
Yosemite National Park, which closed for three months last spring due to the pandemic, is returning to a reservation system for day use. The rule goes into effect on May 21, and lasts through September 30.
Finally, Olympic National Park is making a change to its wilderness camping permit system. For this season, there will be no more self-issued permits at trailheads or walk-up permits at park information centers; all hikers must make reservations online prior to a trip.