The magnificent Rocky Mountain National Park is situated about an hour’s drive northwest of Denver in northern Colorado. Park headquarters are located in Estes Park, a town on the Rocky Mountains’ eastern edge. Incomparable scenery, proximity to fascinating wildlife, and an abundance of outdoor recreational activities make the park an extremely popular holiday destination. Near many Rocky Mountain National Park vacation rentals are countless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, river rafting, fishing, and winter sports. Here are the top things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park during each season.

mountain park trail

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the Summer

During the summer at Rocky Mountain National Park, the weather is warm, and meadows are bursting with wildflowers. Occasional thunderstorms add an exciting ambiance to the otherwise deep-blue sky. What to pack includes summer clothes and a light jacket for higher altitudes. Rivers are full from snowmelt, and Mountain Whitewater out of nearby Fort Collins offers thrilling whitewater rafting trips down the Cache La Poudre River. For gentler, family-friendly water fun, rent a kayak at Lake Estes Marina on the northeast side of town, and follow the easy Estes Park kayak course on the lake. Numerous hiking trails provide a chance to explore the park’s natural beauty and observe the wildlife. Estes Park Mountain Shop has rental gear and guides to make your excursion easier and safer.

Although Rocky Mountain National Park does not allow mountain biking on its trails, there are numerous leisure bike trails in Estes Park and trails for mountain bikes in adjacent Roosevelt National Forest. Rent quality mountain bikes and join cycling tours through New Venture Cycling at Estes Park. High country stream and lake fly fishing is a popular activity. Kirk’s Flyshop in Estes Park rents you rods, reels, waders, and other gear and takes you fishing in the National Park. To give your kids an easier fishing experience, head for Trout Haven Fishing Pond in Estes Park and catch some rainbow trout. For more family fun in Estes Park, try the Open Air Adventure Park, an aerial obstacle course with zip lines, rope bridges, swinging log steps, and other challenges. The annual Estes Park Rooftop Rodeo, renowned as one of the best small rodeos in the west, takes place throughout the summer at Stanley Fairgrounds, and don’t miss the yearly Estes Park Jazz Fest in early June.

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the Fall

Fall at Rocky Mountain National Park means blue skies, clear air, and the leaves of the aspens changing into beautiful shades of autumn color. Bighorn sheep engage in butting contests, and the sound of bugling elks fills the slopes and valleys. Pack heavier clothes for chillier weather and occasional snowfall. To best capture the flamboyant fall foliage in the park, take a private guided photography tour with Yellow Wood Guiding out of Estes Park. For wildlife viewing, Green Jeep Tours has a Ruttin’ Around Elk Tour that goes into the back-country to observe elks up close. The Moraine Park Discovery Center Museum on Bear Lake Road in the park, which features interactive exhibits, a gift shop, and a nature trail, remains open until mid-fall. Estes Park Trolleys offers a half-day bus tour taking you to some of Rocky Mountain National Park’s most well-known natural wonders through mid-autumn. The Estes Park Autumn Gold Festival in September features live music, dancing, and fun activities for children. The annual Estes Park Elk Fest at the end of September has Native American music and dancing, bugling contests, and other elk-themed events.

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Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the Winter

In winter, much of Rocky Mountain National Park is covered in snow, temperatures are extremely cold, and roads and facilities at higher elevations are closed. However, winter sports enthusiasts enjoy a wide range of activities. Pack warm clothing, gloves, hats and boots. Snowshoeing is very popular, and Kirks Mountain Adventures in Estes Park provides snowshoes, poles, and expert guidance for excursions into Rocky Mountain National Park. Rent some equipment at Estes Park Mountain Shop, and try some cross-country skiing on Trail Ridge Road, which is closed to traffic all winter. For family-friendly sledding and tubing, rent your equipment at Estes Park Mountain Shop and head for Hidden Valley just west of Estes Park, a former downhill ski center that the park converted into a sledding area.

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the Spring

Spring weather is unpredictable around Rocky Mountain National Park vacation rentals, with some warm days and some days of snow or rain. It’s best to be prepared by packing warm clothing and rain gear. Not all of the roads and trails in the park are open yet. Although snow begins to melt and fill the streams and rivers, winter sports are still popular. On the east side of the park, you can explore trails on horseback. Sombrero Stables offers one to three-hour rides all year round on its 1,000-acre property adjoining the park, where you might see elk, deer, coyotes, and bobcats as you ride.

When is the Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

Fall at Rocky Mountain National Park offers clear weather, opportunities for wildlife viewing, and annual events. Winter is a great time for snow sports. The varying weather in spring creates uncertainty about the availability of activities, but horseback riding is an option. The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is summer, when the weather is warm, all the roads and trails are open, and there is an abundance of recreational activities.

 
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