Hitting the trail at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, 10/20/21.

Summer camping at Cheyenne State Park, along with every other Colorado State Park, is filling up fast.

The summer vacation season may seem like it's a long way off, since it's just after the first of the year, but in reality it's not that far away at all.

Advanced reservations and timed entry due to limited park capacities mean last-minute trips are becoming a thing of the past, so now is a good time to start making reservations, or at least planning to make reservations.

Rocky Mountain National Park's timed entry system will be in effect from May 28-Oct. 11 and it can be a little complicated. Beginning at 8 a.m. on May 1, you can apply for a permit for entry between May 28-June 30. Beginning at 10 a.m. on June 1, you can apply for a permit for the month of July and any unused permits still available for June (good luck). Beginning at 10 a.m. on July 1, you can apply for a permit for August and any unused permits left over from July, while permits for the month of September go live at 10 a.m. on Aug. 1, along with any remaining August permits. Finally, beginning at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1, you can apply for a permit for October and any unused permits from September.

Sound complicated? Well, fasten your seat belts. Some tickets are held for a pre-sale the night before random days, and there are not one, but two types of timed entry permits. One permit is for the very popular Bear Lake corridor, and the other is for the rest of the park. But, if you get to the Bear Lake corridor before 5 a.m. or after 6 p.m., you don't need a timed entry permit. You can enter the rest of the park without a permit before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m.

The timed entry permit is in addition to the regular park entry pass and  there is a $2 non-refundable "service fee" for the timed entry permit. And you can only get a timed entry permit online via the recreation.gov mobile app, or by phone (877-444-6777), but not at the park. Clear as mud? Yeah, that's what I thought. You can find all the dirty details, of which there are plenty, here.

Meanwhile, the insanely popular Arches National Park in Utah is implementing a temporary timed entry program from April 3 to Oct. 2. The system is a little less complex than RMNPs in that timed entry tickets are needed between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, and tickets are sold three months in advance. For example, tickets for April went on sale Jan. 3; tickets for May go on sale Feb. 1, etc. A limited number of tickets are available at 6 p.m. for the following day. As with RMNP, timed entry tickets are only sold online or by phone (877-444-6777). You will still need a park pass or pay the entry fee. For more information, visit here.

Zion National Park has implemented a lottery reservation system for the popular Angels Landing trail, while other popular National Parks such as Canyonlands, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite do not have limited-entry systems in place. Yet. 

Colorado State Parks do not have limited-entry systems, but finding a site in a state park campground might already be difficult. A quick check of random dates for this summer for both Mueller and Cheyenne Mountain State Parks for a five-day stay found either very few or no sites available. The James M. Robb State Park campground in Grand Junction, just minutes from the entrance to Colorado National Monument, was also booked on the summer dates that were checked. You can try your luck with a Colorado State Park campground here.

Things aren't better for commercial campgrounds. The KOA campground in Grand Junction had no sites available on the same dates I checked for Robb State Park, and the KOA campground in Fountain, the nearest to Cheyenne Mountain State Park, only had a few sites available for the same dates that CMSP was full.

Obviously, this isn't all encompassing. There are many places to visit where entry at almost anytime will not be problematic, or where campsites can be had with little or no notice, or on a first-come basis. But, as outdoor recreation continues to boom and more and more people flock to popular trails, parks and campgrounds, it's not much of a stretch to believe planning far in advance will become more the norm than the exception.

And for what it's worth, Leave No Trace principle No. 1 is "Plan Ahead and Prepare."

Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.

Follow Hiking Bob on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (@hikingguide), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc. to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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