Rocky Mountain National Park Guide and Important Visitor Info
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in northern Colorado and spans the Continental Divide. The park offers 415 square miles of mountain adventure complete with trails, nature, wildlife and lots of photo ops. It’s a nature’s lovers dream come true. If this spot is on the bucket list, read this Rocky Mountain National Park guide and important info.
Rocky Mountain National Park Guide: Overview, Activities and Info
Those visiting Denver, Boulder, Loveland and Fort Collins can access the park in a drive less than two hours. Others can fly into a nearby airport and drive Trail Ridge Road, which includes scenic overlooks and crests around 12,000 feet. However, most times this road closes from mid-October through late May.
Estes Park and Grand Lake operate as the park’s gateway communities. In the summer, Estes Park visitors enjoy free public transportation, and Greyhound bus line serves other areas.
Rocky Mountain National Park has served as an important spot for thousands of years. Until the late 1700s, Utes occupied this region, and the U.S. Government purchased it in 1803. However, the 1970s brought the opportunity for visitors to explore the area with park superintendents. Rangers were then able to teach guests how to be good stewards of the park, and offer campground talks and seminars.
Rules and Fees
Visitors should note the park is federally managed and protected. These rules and regulations help keep the natural environment safe as well as protect everyone inside the park. Here are some guidelines:
- Pets may only enter certain areas. They are not permitted on trails.
- Those fishing must have a Colorado fishing license if 16 years of age and older.
- Hunting, smoking of any substance, and drones are not allowed.
- Bicycles and motor vehicles are permitted.
- Read the full list of rules and regulations.
The park does charge and admission fee and offer annual passes. Prices range from $15-$35, and range from one to seven days. Annual passes cost around $70 and provide access for full year. Fee money goes to the park’s improvements and projects.
Animals and Plants
Hundreds of animal and plant species call Rocky Mountain National Park home. Expect to see small birds, butterflies, amphibians and reptiles. Then look out for bighorn sheep, elk, bears, moose, deer, hares, squirrels and mountain lions. As always, do not try to interact with animals. Instead, take photos and admire them in their natural environment.
In addition to animals, visitors enjoy a variety of plant species including algae, lichens, moss, exotic plants, trees and wildflowers. This area is especially stunning during peak seasons, such as fall foliage season, fresh snow, and blooming wildflower fields in the summer.
Rocky Mountain National Park Guide: Things to Do
Outdoor enthusiasts find plenty of recreational activities to keep them active. Hiking ranks among the most popular, as the park offers 355 miles of hiking trails for all skill levels. Bring a picnic to enjoy with loved ones at designated picnic spots located throughout the park. Other amenities include a visitors center, campgrounds and ranger-led programs.
Not a hiker? No problem. Rocky Mountain National Park provides opportunities to take scenic drives, reserve horseback rides, and fish its 50 lakes and streams. During winter, snow lovers come to the area for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and sledding. No matter what time of year, always plan for weather issues and road closures.
Rocky Mountain National Park Guide: Kids Activities
In addition to the above activities, children participate in fun programs catered to their interests. The park’s Rocky’s Junior Ranger Program welcomes kindergartners through eighth graders to become junior rangers.
For more hands-on fun, head to Moraine Park Museum and Amphitheater. The amphitheater often hosts k-12 programs, and the museum provides ways to learn about the National Park Service and importance of nearby Moraine Park.
When to Visit
Rocky Mountain National Park opens 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, weather permitting. Summer and fall welcome the most visitors, and parking lots can become crowded. To avoid large crowds, consider coming in early spring or late fall before snow begins to fall.