By Katelyn Newberg ▪
The Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area is starting a timed entry reservation system for the park’s Scenic Drive to address capacity issues and long wait times from fall to spring, the Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday.
The new system will require entry reservations for people looking to visit from Oct. 1 to May 31, and who want to enter the park from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to a news release. Because the program is new, the reservations will not be required this year until Nov. 3, Bureau of Land Management spokesman John Asselin said.
Although the park has undergone varying levels of closure during the coronavirus pandemic, Asselin said implementation of the reservation system is not related to COVID-19 safety precautions.
“We’ve been looking for a solution for quite some time now with our capacity issues,” he said.
The park typically sees an increase in visitors when the weather is mild during the fall, winter and spring, which leads to the Scenic Drive closing when it reaches capacity. Asselin said it can also cause long lines of cars waiting to enter the park, stretching onto state Route 159.
“It’s a huge resource impact problem, and it’s also a safety issue,” he said.
He said the park looked at programs such as Zion National Park’s shuttle system and Rocky Mountain National Park’s timed entry reservations, which went into effect June 4. That was the first time that a time entry system was used at a larger National Park Service site, according to the Coloradoan newspaper.
The reservations at Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area don’t cover the entry fee, which is $15 per car or truck without an annual pass. Visitors will also need to pay a $2 processing fee to make the reservations at Recreation.gov, a third-party website used by the National Park Service for campground reservations, Asselin said.
Reservations will be available up to 30 days in advance, according to the BLM. This year, visitors will be able to start scheduling reservations Oct. 6.
The reservation requires people to enter the park at a certain time but will not limit the amount of time visitors can stay in the park.
The park is currently open for summer hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center and the Red Spring Picnic Area’s picnic tables remain closed because of coronavirus restrictions.