Rocky Mountain National Park is the pinnacle of national parks. There is a bit of everything in this area, from mountains, to beautiful trees, meadows, and abundant wildlife. When asked to describe a national park, the Rockies is almost certainly what comes to mind for many people. The park is perfect for every visitor, from avid fishermen and outdoorsmen, to hikers, to wildlife viewers, to photographers, and so many more.
In the face of all of this natural splendor, it can be difficult to plan your visit. There’s so much to do and see, after all, how are you supposed to choose? Many people can be sucked into planning the big picture details as well, that they can forget to take care of the smaller items needed to make your trip to the park as seamless as possible. We’ve compiled a small list of advice to help you plan your first, second, or fiftieth trip to this beautiful national park.
How do I get to the park?
Rocky Mountain National Park is about 90 minutes away from Denver, so your best bet is usually to rent a car to make the drive, or, if you’re road tripping, just to bring your own car! There is also the Estes Park Shuttle, which operates from the park to Denver. A one day pass for a car full of visitors is $25 dollars, and $15 for a single visitor.
What can I do in Rocky Mountain National Park?
No matter your age, interests, or season when you visit, Rocky Mountain National Park has something for everyone to enjoy. Here are a few of the top attractions in the park- see what sparks your interest!
Estes Park has a bit of everything, from shops and food to whitewater rafting and horseback riding. You’ll likely pass through Estes when you first enter the park. If you aren’t camping, you’ll probably be spending the night in Estes, so make sure you’ve made your reservations!
Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continually paved highway in the country! This road offers incredible views during its 48 miles, where you climb in elevation until you can see the mountain peaks. You’ll probably see some wildlife along the drive as well, so be sure to stop and take pictures! Always observe proper safety precautions when viewing wildlife.
Bear Lake is one of the most popular areas in the park. It is a gorgeous lake surrounded by a relatively flat trail, making it perfect for a family friendly hike. We recommend getting an early start if you visit, as it gets crowded as the day goes on. The lake is also the starting point for a number of other hikes.
Where can I stay?
If you want to stay within the park, you will definitely need a tent or an RV! Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park is an unforgettable wilderness experience. Drive to campsites start at $30 a night, and there are a wide variety of them in the park, depending on where you want to stay. Reservations usually open six months in advance, so make sure to book early before they fill up!
If you aren’t a camper, Estes Park offers lodging, and is only a few minutes away from the park itself. There are a few different options in Estes Park. You can stay in the Ridgeline Hotel Ascend Collection Estes Park, for a comfortable experience. You can also stay in the historic Stanley Hotel, which opened in 1909. Any fans of horror might be particularly interested in this hotel- it was the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in the Shining!
If none of these suit your needs, you can also rent a cabin in the nearby towns.
When should I visit?
Rocky Mountain National Park is beautiful year round, but September is one of the most beautiful times in the park. The weather is comfortable, but with just a little bit of chill. The aspens are in full color, and the elk are particularly active, as it is rut season. The first snowfall may have started by this time, especially late September, which makes for a beautiful and magical experience.
Rocky Mountain National Park is an absolute must-see for everyone. If you get the chance to visit, take it- and hopefully this guide can help you make the most of your time in one of America’s most incredible national parks!