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Camping in Colorado skyrocketed over the last decade and spiked during the pandemic

DENVER (KRDO)-- A new online resource keyed to outdoor enthusiasts can see which camping grounds on public lands tend to be the hardest to reserve, and alternative spots that could offer more elbow room.

A new report, The Camping Crunch released by the Center for Western Priorities, shows the popularity of camping on national public lands skyrocketed in Colorado and nationally over the past decade, with a notable spike during the pandemic.

The report analyzed public land camping data between 2014 and 2020. During that time, the analysis revealed that estimated occupancy of reservation based campsites in Colorado went from 43% in 2014, up to 71% in 2020. That's a 64% increase in Colorado, compared to a 39% increase across the nation.

The Camping Crunch analysis found the COVID-19 pandemic did a lot to drive up camp site occupancy.

“More people visiting, camping on, and enjoying our treasured national public lands is certainly a good thing. However, the increase in visitation can lead to serious overcrowding and strains the infrastructure and resources on public lands during the peak summer season,” said Jennifer Rokala, Executive Director of the Center for Western Priorities. “The popularity of public lands in Colorado—and especially protected areas—should urge leaders to keep a good thing going by funding our land management systems and designating more protected areas to distribute visitation across different sites and seasons.”

For outdoor enthusiasts looking for less crowded campsites to visit, Camping Crunch has an interactive map breaking down campgrounds with the highest and lowest occupancy in the state.

COURTESY; The Camping Crunch

Camping Crunch’s tool lists the following campgrounds with the highest reservable site occupancy:

  • Aspenglen Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park (92 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP South Rim, Black Canyon National Park (90 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Glacier Basin Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park (88 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Dowdy Lake, Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest (85 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park (82 average percent of reservable sites filled)

Colorado’s campsites with lowest reservable site occupancy were:

  • Teal Lake Group Campsite, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest (5 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Ute Campground, San Juan National Forest (10 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • McPhee Recreation Complex, San Juan National Forest (15 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Buckeye Recreation Area, Manti-Lasal National Forest (18 average percent of reservable sites filled)
  • Marvine Campground, White River National Forest (18 average percent of reservable sites filled)

Compared to other regions of the country, the Western United States saw the biggest increase in reservable camping activity, although the trend of increasingly full campgrounds was consistent.

Article Topic Follows: Top Stories

Aubry Tucker

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