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National park visitor spending in Colorado rebounded last year, federal data shows

Spending by tourists visiting national parks in Colorado rebounded last year, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels, federal data released on Thursday shows.

Colorado, home to four national parks, had 7.8 million visits to all lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS), an agency report released Thursday said.

That’s up from 6 million visits in 2020, when Rocky Mountain National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NPS report said that tourists spent an estimated $560 million last year in park gateway communities, which the agency defines as communities within 60 miles of a national park. Visitors spent an estimated $392 million in 2020 and $515 million in 2019.

Nationally, the NPS said it had 297 million total recreational visits last year, a 25% increase from 2020, and total trip-related spending was an estimated $20.5 billion.

“Nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and community in America, as well as to the local economies of gateway communities that support our national parks,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Rocky Mountain National Park had 4.4 million visits, the fifth-busiest national park in the country last year. Visitors spent an estimated $323 million, up from $224 million in 2020 and $314 million in 2019, according to the data.

Great Sand Dunes National Park near Alamosa had over 600,000 visits last year. Visitors spent an estimated $41.3 million in 2021, $29.5 million in 2020, and $33.1 million in 2019.

Mesa Verde National Park had over 548,000 visits last year, with an estimated $62.6 million spent. Visitors spent an estimated $30.2 million and $58.1 million in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose had over 309,000 visits, with $21.4 million spent last year. Tourists spent $21.8 million in 2020 and $27.6 million the year before, the data shows.

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