The night before Joyce and Steve Koenig visited Mount Evans with their daughter and her boyfriend, they went to recreation.gov and purchased a vehicle ticket.
On July 22, the Koenigs, who live in Lakewood, and hundreds of others visited the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, stopping at Mount Goliath, Summit Lake and/or the summit parking lot along the way. Many of the parked vehicles had various tags or reservation receipts displayed on their front dashboard or windshield — proof that they were OK to park at a given fee area.
When the scenic byway reopened for vehicle traffic on June 4, the U.S. Forest Service and its partners instituted a timed-entry reservation system for those parking in any fee areas between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
The road itself is free to drive on, although motorists are asked to stop at the welcome station first. More than 700 vehicles have opted for a drive-only experience thus far this summer.
U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman K. Reid Armstrong said the new system, which is on a trial basis for the summer, has been working well thus far. It’s reduced parking issues and overcrowding at the trailheads, she said, and there’s been less resource damage throughout the area.
It’s also alleviated a lot of money-handling at the welcome station, helping vehicles to get onto the scenic byway more quickly, she said.
In fact, Armstrong said USFS saw more vehicle ticket sales in June 2021 than in June 2019 — 12,191 versus 10,783. However, she said the June 2021 numbers could include people buying for July dates in advance, as the site allows sales up to a month ahead of time.
She said the USFS will have a better idea of overall traffic counts and usage at the end of the season, and it and other agencies will decide over the fall and winter whether to continue the reservation system next summer.