National park tourism nets $722M in economic benefit for Colorado

DENVER (KKTV) - Colorado is a hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts, and a recent report by the National Park Service (NPS) shows millions of visitors the Centennial State is paying off.

The NPS states 7,457,422 visitors to national parks in Colorado in 2016 spent about $486 million in the state. The record visitation and spending supported 7,427 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state's economy of $722 million dollars.

“From Rocky Mountain to Mesa Verde, the 12 national park units in Colorado attract visitors from within the state, across the country and around the world,” said NPS Intermountain Region Director Sue Masica in a release. “Whether they are out for a weekend, a school field trip, or a month-long vacation, visitors come to have a great experience and end up spending some money along the way. This new report also shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the Park Service – and a big factor in Colorado’s economy. That is a result we can all support."

In 2016, there was a 5.4 percent increase in visitation and a 7.9 percent rise in spending compared to 2015.

The top three most visited national parks in Colorado in 2016 were:

- Rocky Mountain National Park (4,517,586, more than half the state total)

- Curecanti National Recreation Area (982,498)

- Mesa Verde National Park (583,527)

According to the 2016 report, most park visitor spending, by percentage, was for lodging (31.2 percent), followed by food and beverages (27.2), gas and oil (11.7), admissions and fees (10.2), souvenirs and other expenses (9.7), local transportation (7.4), and camping fees (2.5).

Click here for the interactive tool and report at the NPS Social Science Program webpage.