Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most stunning natural attractions in the United States, featuring 415 square miles of majestic mountains surrounded by an abundance of wildlife, vegetation, and waterways. Whether you live near the park or are just visiting, there’s plenty of ways to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Check out some of the best things to do below!
8 of the Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado National Parks brim with natural beauty and an abundance of recreation. Rocky Mountain National Park is no exception. From hiking to biking to fishing to skiing and beyond, this beautiful park has so much to offer.
Before You Go
Rocky Mountain National Park has five visitor centers within its limits. These are a good place to stop to get information about the park or ask questions of the staff. The park has four different entrances, the most heavily used being the one near Estes Park. If you’d like to skip the lines, the Grand Lake entrance tends to be a bit less busy. The Wild Basin entrance is another where you may be able to avoid some of the crowds.
Rocky Mountain National Park is open 24 hours a day year-round, weather permitting. However, some roads do close seasonally. Be sure to check the weather before visiting. You can also see what real-time conditions are like by looking at the Rocky Mountain National Park webcams.
Rocky Mountain National Park Visitors Centers
There are four visitors centers in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as a discovery center, information center, and historic site.
Summer is the best time to visit if you are looking to supplement your experience with information from one of the visitors centers. As with many other features of Rocky Mountain National Park, weather governs whether some destinations are reachable. For current conditions and alerts, check their website.
Alpine Visitor Center
Come visit the visitors center with the highest elevation (11,796 feet) in Rocky Mountain National Park! You’ll learn about the alpine tundra ecosystem as you enjoy spectacular views of mountain peaks and glaciated valleys.
The Alpine Visitors Center is closed from fall through spring, opening Memorial Day Weekend through October 8th. It is located at Fall River Pass, at the junction of Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Roads. Check the Rocky Mountain National Park website for more information on hours, and call 970-586-1222 for updates on the status of Trail Ridge Road.
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
You’ll find an impressive topographical relief map of Rocky Mountain National Park at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, in addition to an informative 20-minute film about the park. If you’re not sure of where you want to start when exploring the park, park rangers are available to answer your questions. There’s also a gift shop, free WiFi, and handicap accessible and family restrooms here.
The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open year-round except for Christmas and Thanksgiving Day. Typical hours are 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., with reduced hours in fall, winter, and spring. You’ll find this visitor center near the park’s main entrance at Estes Park.
Fall River Visitor Center
The Fall River Visitor Center is another great place to start if you aren’t sure what you want to do first in Rocky Mountain National Park. Park rangers are on hand and provide a variety of programs and activities, which include exhibits on wildlife survival and management.
The Fall River Visitor Center is open from late spring to mid-fall. Check the Rocky Mountain National Park’s website for more information on the hours! This visitors center is near the Fall River entrance.
Kawuneeche Visitor Center
The Kawuneeche Visitor Center near the Grand Lake entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is open daily year-round, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Hours are also reduced in fall, winter, and spring. For more details, visit the Rocky Mountain National Park website or call 970-627-3471.
There are over 300 miles of Rocky Mountain National Park hiking trails at your disposal. It goes without saying that with access to a trail system that large, you’ll have no trouble planning an unforgettable trip.
These trails wind through spectacular mountain forests and along craggy mountain ridges, providing varying levels of challenge. In fact, there’s so much to explore that the park is divided into five different geographic regions. As you plan your trip, be sure to take a look at a Rocky Mountain National Park trail map so you can use your time wisely.
2. Trail Ridge Road
With its highest point at over 12,000 feet, Trail Ridge Road delivers some of the most stunning views in Rocky Mountain National Park.
It crosses the Continental Divide, and you’ll be able to see Wyoming to the north, the Great Plains to the east, and the Colorado Rockies to the south and west. You’ll pass by the Kawuneeche Valley, and you might also catch glimpses of the wildlife that inhabits the park, which includes bighorn sheep, elk, pikas, mule deer, wolverines, and more.
Plus, you can witness it all right from the comfort of your vehicle. If you feel the need to stop and take it all in, feel free to park at one of the pull-offs along the road where you can enjoy the scenery and take pictures. Often times, even in the middle of summer, you will find a patch of snow to play in!
3. Bear Lake
Whether you’re here to hike, fish, or take in the natural beauty, Bear Lake has it all. The scenery surrounding the lake is breathtaking, and it’s easy to see why this is a favorite Rocky Mountain National Park attraction.
4. Horseback Riding
Saddle up and see the park on horseback! This is a great way to see some of the backcountry camping spots, and a large amount of the hiking trails are open to horse travel.
Thanks to the streams and lakes that populate the park, Rocky Mountain National Park is an excellent place to fish. Trout are abundant throughout the park’s waters, making fly fishing a popular choice.
6. Winter Sports
Strap on your skis or snowshoes and explore the park’s land in the winter! Colorado mountains and snow go hand in hand, and Rocky Mountain National Park provides its visitors with plenty of fun.
7. Emerald Lake Trail
A nice hike that clocks in at just over three miles, the Emerald Lake Trail rewards hikers with picturesque views of Emerald Lake. There’s a decent amount of elevation change in that distance, but the trek is well worth it.
8. Moraine Park
Moraine Park is a popular destination within the Rocky Mountain National Park and features plenty to do. The Big Thompson River winds through the park, providing rapids and great opportunities for fishing. If you came to Rocky Mountain National Park to go camping, the Moraine Park campground is an excellent place to set up camp. And of course, there are some fantastic trails nearby.
Getting In to Rocky Mountain National Park
When you pay entrance fees to state and national parks, you are directly supporting them. Your funds will go towards preserving and maintaining the park and keeping it open for public use.
Often, the fee requested is almost negligible compared to the experience it grants, and this is especially true for Rocky Mountain National Park. Dramatic rugged peaks, pristine alpine lakes, wildlife, and a stunning variety of environments are all encompassed within the park’s boundaries, and there are so many different ways to experience them.
That being said, you’ll need a pass to get into Rocky Mountain National Park, and you’ve got a few different options available.
Rocky Mountain National Park Passes
Rocky Mountain National Park Passes cover entrance fees and standard amenity fees. You can choose from one-day, seven-day, annual, and lifetime passes.
Investing in a Rocky Mountain National Park Annual Pass is an excellent idea if you plan on visiting the park regularly, whereas the others are a great option if you are visiting for the first time, or plan to camp for a few days.
The National Park Service also offers passes that can be used at other federal recreation sites. These include a Senior Pass, Free Pass for all 4th graders, and Annual Passes. See the National Park Service’s website for more information. Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t have a Lifetime Pass, so if you know you’ll want to visit for years to come, you’ll need to get a pass from the National Park Service.
One-Day Pass | Automobile | $25
Seven-Day Pass | Automobile | $35
Seven-Day Pass | Per Person | $20
Seven-Day Pass | Motorcycle | $30
Annual Pass | $70
Rocky Mountain National Park Free Days 2019
January 21st | Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
April 20th | First Day of National Park Week / National Junior Ranger Day
August 25th | National Park Service Anniversary
September 28th | National Public Lands Day
November 11th | Veterans Day
Where to Get a Rocky Mountain National Park Pass
You can purchase Rocky Mountain National Park passes online or in person at any of the four park entrances. Passes bought online can take a little while to arrive, so if you are planning on visiting within a month, it is best to wait and get them in person.
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