Rocky Mountain National Park is making a comeback after the one-two 2020 punch of COVID, East Troublesome fire |

Rocky Mountain National Park is making a comeback after the one-two 2020 punch of COVID, East Troublesome fire

Trailheads are opening after the East Troublesome fire, a popular campground gets a makeover, and new employee housing on the way.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado's crown jewel in the federal land system, is having a comeback after threats from COVID and wildfire. On left, park fire Chief Mike Lewelling walks amid fire damage on Green Mountain in June 2021. On right, the same area has trails open and new growth in July 2022.
Kathryn Scott, Special to the Colorado Sun/Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun

The same few months of 2020 that Colorado crown jewel Rocky Mountain National Park was suffering its worst losses from COVID closures, the whole place also nearly burned down

Now, things are looking up in the original Switzerland of the West.  

The park’s in-house firefighting crew, which said they’d been prepping for a sparkfest like East Troublesome for 20 years, used a landscaping “catcher’s mitt” to stop the record fire from blazing on into Estes Park in October 2020. Those crews will be following up on that success with new federal grants to bolster firewall efforts on Deer Mountain, which stands sentinel between prime wildfire paths and Estes Park, evacuated as a precaution before East Troublesome smoldered out. 

And with COVID’s grip loosened from much of the American psyche, the park returned to 4.4 million visitors last year — not a record, but enough to reinforce a timed-entry system that by some evaluations is going well. 

Now park folks are ready to brag about some wins, not just some avoided losses. 


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