In a place as varied and exciting as Rocky Mountain National Park, there are plenty of excellent ways to spend your time. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, stunning vistas, and an abundance of wildlife, Rocky Mountain is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
To help you narrow down your list of activities for your future trip to the park, we’ve created this list of the top things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park so you know how to best spend your time.
Things to do in summer
Head out on a scenic drive
For a sweeping vista and an overview of Rocky Mountain National Park from the comfort of your car, a scenic drive through the park’s roads is a must-do.
By mid-July, most, if not all, of the park’s roads are completely snow-free. That means you can head out in your trusty vehicle and enjoy the view from Trail Ridge Road, the designated All American Road that traverses Rocky Mountain National Park.
From Trail Ridge Road, you can also stop by the Alpine Visitor Center, which holds the unique distinction of being the highest elevation visitor center in the US National Park system.
For even more scenic driving in the summer months, you can check out Old Fall River Road, which was the original auto route through the park when it was first built in 1920.
Try rock climbing or mountaineering
Aptly named, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most rugged peaks in the southern Rocky Mountains. For anyone looking to dive deep into the park’s alpine region, learning the ropes during a day of rock climbing or mountaineering is a solid option.
The park contains hundreds of rock climbing routes, though the climbs that lead to the summit of Longs Peak are perhaps the most famous.
If you’re not already an accomplished mountaineer, though, you can still learn the ropes in Rocky Mountain with one of the region’s many qualified guides. For more information on the climbing guide services that are authorized to operate within the park, check out the park’s list of permitted concessionaire businesses.
Go backpacking in the mountains
If checking out the park’s mountainscape with both feet planted firmly on the ground is more your style, then a backpacking trip should be high on your list of potential summertime activities.
With your 2 person tent and summer sleeping bag along for the ride, you can explore Rocky Mountain National Park’s backcountry locales on foot. The park has hundreds of tent sites available in the more remote backcountry areas of the region, including the popular Fern Lake and Ouzel Lake campsites.
Alternatively, you can venture off-trail and stay in one of Rocky Mountain’s 2 dozen wilderness zones. Regardless of where you’d like to camp, be sure to get a wilderness permit before you head out.
For specific campsites, it’s best to reserve your site online during the summer months. Or, for a last-minute trip, you can stop by the Beaver Meadows and Kawuneeche Visitor Centers to inquire about wilderness permits.
Read More : 11 Things to Bring for Primitive Camping
Things to do in fall
Go wildlife watching
Fall is a time of immense activity in the animal world as most of the park’s wildlife is scrambling to prepare for the upcoming winter season. This activity provides you with some truly fantastic wildlife watching opportunities, particularly if you’re in the park during the annual elk rut.
Between mid-September and mid-October of each year, the region’s elk population prepares for mating season. The bull elk will bugle and fight with each other in order to attract mates and retain control of their harem.
As an astute wildlife watcher at the mid-elevations in the park, you can see these impressive animals in action while also enjoying a magnificent backdrop of fall foliage in the mountains.
Enjoy the fall foliage on a hike
Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its stunning golden glow during the fall months, thanks to the seasonal foliage change of the region’s many aspen groves.
One of the best options for enjoying the park during the fall months is to head out on a day hike to stunning destinations like Chasm Lake, Sky Pond, or Timberline Pass. From all of these locations, you can enjoy a combination of rugged mountain scenery and sweeping vistas over the beautiful fall foliage colors that you can only enjoy during this special time of year.
Things to do in winter
Try cross country skiing
The deep snowpack in Rocky Mountain National Park makes for some excellent cross country skiing during the winter months. Thankfully, there are plenty of great trail options for intrepid skiers that want to glide through this veritable winter wonderland.
One of the best places to ski in the park is on Trail Ridge Road. Since the road is closed and unmaintained in the winter, it’s a great way to see the high alpine regions of the park on foot. Alternatively, the 3.3 miles loop to Sprague Lake also makes for a fun cross country ski trail for newer skiers – just don’t forget your heated gloves!
Go snowshoeing in a winter wonderland
If you’re looking to explore Rocky Mountain on foot during the winter months, you’ll want to grab your winter hiking boots, a warm pair of hiking socks, and a pair of snowshoes for your adventure.
A great family-friendly wintertime activity, snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park is a nice option for anyone that wants to see the mountains without the need for specialist ski skills. Many of the park’s trails make for superb snowshoeing trips and the local rangers also lead guided hikes on a regular basis during the winter months.
Things to do in spring
Search for wildflowers
As the weather gets warmer and the snow starts to melt, the Rocky Mountain National Park landscape comes alive. With the start of spring, you can enjoy large fields of wildflowers and stunning alpine meadows within the park, particularly at the lower elevations.
While the highest slopes in the region will stay snow-covered until well into June, by April and May, you can take a hike to Emerald Lake and other low elevation areas in the park for a chance to see some great wildflowers. Be sure to pack some waterproof hiking boots, however, as that spring snowmelt often creates a bit of mud on the trail.
Go chase waterfalls
Late May is the perfect time of year to chase waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park. During this time, the park’s rivers, streams, and waterfalls are flowing at full force due to the seasonal snowmelt, allowing for a magnificent cascade of water for you to enjoy.
With that in mind, the trails can be cold, icy, and slippery during the late spring months, so don’t forget your hiking poles or your heated socks. But, if you’re well prepared, spring is the best time to go see the park’s famous cascades, like Chasm Falls and Alberta Falls.
Try whitewater rafting
Once the snow starts to melt in Rocky Mountain National Park, the rivers start to rage. This makes late spring an excellent time to enjoy the park’s world class rafting opportunities.
Whether you’re an experienced rafter or you’ve never paddled whitewater before, there are quite a few guiding services in Estes Park that are happy to show you the rapids. Many of the local guide services offer a range of different trip options to suit various budgets, time frames, and experience levels, making rating a great spring time activity.
Things to do with kids
Visit the Moraine Park Museum, Discovery Center, and Amphitheater
A fun activity for the whole family, the kid-friendly Moraine Park Museum and Amphitheater is centrally located within Rocky Mountain National Park, just off of Bear Lake Road.
From the amphitheater, you can gaze out over Longs Peak as you sit back and enjoy a ranger-led educational program that’s designed to inspire your little naturalist. Alternatively, you can head inside the museum and check out the museum and discovery center, which is full of kid-centered interactive exhibits.
While there, you can also pick up a junior ranger booklet, which your children can complete during your visit to earn the title of Rocky Mountain National Park junior ranger.
Walk the Beaver Boardwalk
Located at the very start of Trail Ridge Road, the Beaver Boardwalk is a short, 0.1-mile long hiking trail that’s perfect for young children. On this short walk, young children can walk over a small pond that was recently home to a large group of very industrious beavers.
Along the way, kids can enjoy looking for wildlife and they can learn more about the pond’s history by reading the interpretive signs that line the boardwalk. Since the boardwalk is at the beginning of Trail Ridge Road, this is an educational activity to do with your kids before you take a scenic drive through the park.
Go on a family horseback riding trip
For older children, a family horseback riding trip is a great way to explore Rocky Mountain National Park from a unique vantage point.
In the park, there are approximately 280 miles of trails open to horses and other pack animals. If you don’t have your own stock, there are quite a few stables located in and around the park.
Many of these companies offer guided horseback trail rides and even overnight trips, which can be an exciting adventure for older children.
Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.