The Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Best Time to Visit in Rocky Mountains National Park

The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is from June to September.

During this time, you can enjoy generally pleasant weather with comfortable daytime temperatures and plenty of summer sunshine. Plus, by June, the vast majority of the roads and trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are usually snow-free, allowing you to experience as much of the region as you’d like.

By September, you can still enjoy nice weather while also getting the unique experience of seeing the Rocky Mountain elk rut first-hand.

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Best time for good weather

The best time for good weather in Rocky Mountain is July.

In July, the average daytime temperature is between 70ºF and 85ºF, with comfortable conditions, even at higher elevations. While temperatures can certainly get cold at night overall, July provides the best weather conditions for outdoor adventure.

Keep in mind, however, that storms and fickle weather conditions are possible all year long in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is particularly true at higher elevations, which are frequently affected by afternoon thunderstorms and even the occasional mid-summer snowstorm. So, be sure to pack your rain jacket and rain pants, even in the summer!

Best time for camping

Camping in Rocky Mountain

The best time for camping in Rocky Mountain National Park is from June to September.

Throughout the summer and early fall, all of the park’s campgrounds are open and the camping season is in full swing.

During this time, you can also apply for a wilderness permit for backcountry campsites, such as those at Fern Lake. Of course, summer and early fall are very popular times of year to camp in the park, so make your site reservations 6 months in advance. On the other, dispersed campsites are free and are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Be mindful that nighttime temperatures can be cool throughout the park, even after a very warm summer’s day, so a quality summer sleeping bag is essential.

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Best time for hiking

Hiking in Rocky Mountain

The best time for hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is in August and September, though anytime from June to October is ideal.

Since snow is known to stick around at the highest elevations in the park until mid to late-June, hiking in August and September brings the best chance of snow-free trails.

Throughout these months, you also have an excellent chance to see wildflowers and plenty of wildlife. So, pack your hiking camera bag and your favorite camera to ensure you get that perfect shot.

Read More : Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best time to avoid crowds

The best time to avoid crowds in Rocky Mountain is in April and May.

During the spring months of April and May, many of the trails in the park are still covered in snow, though the conditions aren’t ideal for skiing or snowshoeing. As a result, spring is the shoulder season in Rocky Mountain, so visitor numbers are at a minimum.

However, despite some of the snowy trails, you can still have a fantastic time in the park during the spring. Stick to low elevation hikes, such as the trail to Emerald Lake and Bierstadt Lake, to experience wildflowers and beautiful mountain scenery that the Rocky Mountain spring has to offer.

Best time for scenic drives

Scenic Drive in Rocky Mountain

The best time for scenic drives in Rocky Mountain is from July to September.

By July, the park’s roads are almost always snow-free, including Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road. Since the roads are often blanketed in snow by the middle of October, scenic drives in the park are best during the late summer and early fall months.

Best time for wildlife watching

Wildlife Watching​ in Rocky Mountain

The best time for wildlife watching in Rocky Mountain National Park is in the summer and fall.

Throughout June, July, and August, the park’s hearty wildlife flock to the meadows to eat as much as they can before the return of winter. Therefore, the summer is an ideal time to spot mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and moose in Rocky Mountain.

For a particularly exciting wildlife watching experience, however, mid-September to mid-October are ideal times to visit the park. That’s because the annual elk rut takes place during the early fall, giving you a chance to hear bull elk bugling and fighting to win over potential mates.

Best time for a guided tour

The best time for a guided tour in Rocky Mountain is during the summer months.

In the summer, the park’s rangers offer a number of different guided tour options, including evening programs, lectures, ranger-led walks, and even star-gazing events. But, the rangers offer guided tours all year long, including organized snowshoeing adventures in the winter months.

Best time for rafting

Rafting in Rocky Mountain

The best time for rafting in Rocky Mountain is from May to July.

Throughout the late spring and early summer, the snow melt in the park is at its peak. This results in prime whitewater rafting conditions for paddlers of all ages, particularly after record snow years.

That being said, if you’re new to rafting or prefer to stick to tamer rivers, August and September are also nice months to go rafting due to the lower water levels in the region.

Best time to visit the waterfalls

Waterfalls in Rocky Mountain

The best time to visit the waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park is from May to July.

Just like with whitewater rafting, waterfall levels in the park are at their peak during the late spring and early summer months. As the snow in the higher elevation sections of the region starts to melt, this feeds the rivers that create the stunning waterfalls in the park.

Rocky Mountain National Park Seasons

With 4 distinct seasons, Rocky Mountain National Park is a year-round outdoor recreation destination.

Here’s what you can expect if you visit the park at different times of year.

Summer

Rocky Mountain National Park - Summer

By and large, the most popular season to visit Rocky Mountain, summer lasts from about June to August and brings warm weather that’s perfect for hiking and camping.

During this time, you can expect generally pleasant weather during the day, with the exception of afternoon thunderstorms, which are quite frequent at high elevations. Wildflowers are usually in bloom by late June, coating the alpine in a sea of colors, so don’t forget your camera and hiking camera straps.

While some of the highest elevation roads in the park are covered in snow until mid-July, the summer is the best time to visit if you want to see as much of the park as possible. But, crowds are common, so book your campsite well in advance.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Summer Camping?

Fall

Rocky Mountain National Park - Fall

From about September to November each year, Rocky Mountain National Park experiences its fall season. Aspen trees start to change to their beautiful golden color by mid-September, which is perfectly timed with the annual elk rut.

Since early fall often brings fairly nice, albeit cold, weather, it’s a nice time to camp if you’re looking to beat the crowds. Just be sure to pack your heated gloves to help you stay warm.

Also, while early fall is often snow-free, you can usually expect regular snowfall to occur by November. By mid-October, Trail Ridge Road is almost always closed, too, so be prepared for variable road conditions at this time.

Winter

Rocky Mountain National Park - Winter

Winter is truly a magical time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, if you come prepared. With frigid cold temperatures, a pair of winter boots and a winter sleeping bag are essential if you want to have a fun adventure in the park from December to March.

Despite the cold temperatures, there’s plenty to see and do in Rocky Mountain during the winter. For experienced mountain enthusiasts, backcountry skiing in the park is world-class, as is the winter mountaineering.

There are also plenty of great opportunities in the park for shorter snowshoeing day trips, sledding, cross country skiing, and even ranger-led hiking adventures.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Winter Camping?

Spring

Rocky Mountain National Park - Spring

Spring is a time of transition in Rocky Mountain. The months of April and May bring variable weather and snowfall is fairly common, particularly at higher elevations. However, at lower elevations, wildflowers start to bloom in the park by April, providing a nice respite from the otherwise white, snow-covered landscape.

While many of Rocky Mountain’s trails are covered in snow during this time, with a good pair of hiking boots and some trekking poles, hiking is a fun way to enjoy the spring months if you stick to the lower elevation sections of the park.

Gaby Pilson

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.