Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my most treasured places. Even though I lived in Kentucky all throughout my childhood, my parents got us out to Colorado every summer they could. It’s such a nostalgic place that I dragged my husband there for part of our honeymoon—he loved it though, don’t worry! (Not to play it up too much or anything.)
What makes Rocky Mountain Park so special?
It’s the perfect balance of people and seclusion. Several trails we hiked had nobody else on them. And at the same time, there are a handful of popular accessible trails that offer great views and wildlife sightings if you can’t or don’t like to hike.
Where to Stay
A wide array of lodging exists in and out of the park. The Estes Park side has lodging (Stanley Hotel sound familiar?), but if you’re entering the park from the Grand Lake side, the drive to Estes Park can be intimidating (picture driving on the side of a mountain with no guard rails), and you might prefer to lodge out of the park. There are also RV and backcountry campsites within the park.
If you want to stay in a town, several nearby options exist. Grand Lake is right by the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, and it has several trails that lead into the park. Fraser and Winter Park are good options, even though they’re about 30-45 minutes away from the park. (Consider renting a condo for a homier feel if you plan on staying an extended time.) Denver is about 1½ to 2 hours away from the park, depending on which entrance you use.
When to Go
I’m partial to Colorado in the summer, because that’s when you can take full advantage of the trails. Snow is on the mountains year-round, so you can almost always touch snow. Winter is great for snow-shoeing in the park or other winter sports in Winter Park, but many trails (and Trail Ridge Road) are closed during the winter. Autumn and spring are also beautiful times to visit, but the risk of snowfall closing Trail Ridge Road is still a possibility. (Spring is also the rainy season.)
· Give wildlife (especially moose) enough space for them to feel safe. Moose are pretty used to visitors, but they will charge if they feel threatened.
· Humidity is super low in the mountains! That can mean 80 degrees might feel cooler than the 80 degrees you’re used to. Dress in layers for a hike!
· Want to see a waterfall, but aren’t up for a big hike? Take the trails in Grand Lake; they take you to a waterfall in under a mile!
· If you really want to make your arrival to Colorado memorable, take the train! There are several Amtrak stations after Denver that take you right through the mountains, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities for photos!
· Plan for altitude sickness. It might only happen the first day you’re there, but schedule an extra day in your trip to acclimate to the altitude. Drinking lots of water and napping also helps!
· Don’t be a jerk and start a wildfire. Just, don’t.
Why You Should Go
The wildlife and the smell.
Seriously. You haven't lived until you've smelled a forest made entirely of pine trees! And the wildlife (especially in the summer) is crazy prevalent. (For proof see video below!)
A Little Extra
Spending a few days in Colorado? Visit Colorado Springs to see Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods!
Want a bit of city vibe? Spend some days in Denver. Don’t miss the art museums or the Botanic Garden—you could spend an entire day at each of them!
Craving more national park time? Head on down to Mesa Verde National Park to see awesome Native American history!
Need help planning your trip to the Rocky Mountains and beyond? Contact me here to get started!
Now get out there and go!