Fall level traffic at Pikes Peak

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Those looking to visit Pikes Peak should avoid large groups and areas where people may congregate. Maintain the six-foot recommended distance between other visitors. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Pikes Peak State Park, south of McGregor, has been a popular destination for both locals and visitors looking to escape their homes and enjoy the great outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. The campground hosts’ granddaughter recently left chalk messages at the park’s popular scenic overlooks, reminding people to social distance. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

Pikes Peak State Park, south of McGregor, has been a popular destination for both locals and visitors looking to escape their homes and enjoy the great outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The park has been extremely busy because our open areas—trails, overlooks, picnic areas—have remained open,” said Pikes Peak Manager Matt Tschirgi. “The number of phone calls has quadrupled probably, with people double-checking to see if our trails are open.”

When the COVID-19 spread began, Tschirgi said the park saw an influx of non-residents for camping, before it was restricted, as well as day-use from states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois that had closed their parks.

“The past two weekends, all of our parking lots were full. [April 25] our main lot was completely full and cars were circling waiting for spots to open up,” he remarked. “This is typical on the October fall leaf weekends but never in April.”

Tschirgi said the majority of license plates were from Wisconsin.

On Saturday, a drive through the packed lot showed much the same, as well as many out-of-area vehicles from Iowa counties like Johnson, Polk, Blackhawk and Linn that were not among the 77 where COVID-19 restrictions were eased May 1.

“For the most part, people are doing their best to social distance,” Tschirgi said. “Our campground hosts’ granddaughters used chalk and drew lines on the main overlook to remind people to distance from each other.”

Those looking to visit the park should avoid large groups and areas where people may congregate, such as scenic overlooks. Maintain the six-foot recommended distance between other visitors.

“I know it’s difficult to do that on some of our trails, like the boardwalk to Bridal Veil Falls,” Tschirgi said. “We’re doing the best we can with the direction and instructions we’re given.”

With other states, such as Wisconsin, reopening most of their parks, Tschirgi said he’ll be curious to see if traffic at Pikes Peak slows. 

The park’s campgrounds, playgrounds and modern restrooms will remain closed until at least May 15. The closure may even extend beyond that, he noted.

“They might even look at opening the campground for self-contained campers (campers with their own restrooms) and leave our public restrooms closed,” he shared.

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