National park tourism in Colorado creates more than $725.2 million in economic benefit


New report shows visitor spending supports 7,130 jobs in Centennial State

DENVER, April 26, 2018 — A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that the 7,617,582 visitors to national parks in Colorado in 2017 spent $484.5 million in the state. That spending resulted in 7,130 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the Colorado economy of $725.2 million.

“From Rocky Mountain to Great Sand Dunes, 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. “Whether they are out for an afternoon at Bent’s Old Fort, a school field trip to Florissant Fossil Beds or a visit to Mesa Verde on a family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience and end up spending a little money along the way. This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy – returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service – and a big factor in the state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.”

The national park sites in Colorado include Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain national parks; Colorado, Dinosaur, Florissant Fossil Beds, Hovenweep and Yucca House national monuments, Bent’s Old Fort and Sand Creek Massacre national historic sites, and Curecanti National Recreation Area.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the Park Service. The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by more than 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally, 255,900 of them in park gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion.

According to the 2017 report, lodging registered the highest direct benefit of park visitation nationally, with $5.5 billion in economic output into local gateway economies, including 49,000 jobs. The food-and-beverage sector felt the next highest direct benefit, with $3.7 billion of the economic effect on the economies of local park communities, including 60,500 jobs.

By percentage, here is how park visitor spending was distributed: 32.9 percent for lodging/camping, 27.5 percent for food and beverages, 12.1 percent for gas and oil, 10.1 percent for souvenirs and other expenses, 10 percent for admissions and fees, and 7.5 percent for local transportation.

Report authors also produce an interactive tool that allows users to explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage:

To learn more about national parks in Colorado and how the National Park Service works with Wyoming communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 NPS employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with park communities to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at and on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube