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Local's Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park

Tucked away in Colorado, just a short drive from Denver or Fort Collins is the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park. There are endless adventures to be had in Rocky Mountain National Park, making it an ideal getaway location for families, couples, friends, or groups.

For those who live nearby, the numerous activities available, which change with the seasons, make Rocky Mountain National Park a place worth visiting over and over again. 


Although it was once a primarily summer tourist destination, visitors now come to the park throughout the year. No matter what time of year you visit, the park boasts unmatched hiking trails, spectacular views, scenic drives, beautiful rivers, creeks, and lakes, and an abundance of wildlife.

Explore Rocky Mountain National Park Like a Local

Although some roads or sections of the park may close seasonally or as a result of hazardous weather conditions, Rocky Mountain National Park is open twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Summer and fall are the busiest seasons to visit, but there is still plenty of fun to be had during the colder winter and spring months.

Weather conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park can change rapidly, especially in the fall, winter and spring.

Summer and Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

With a majority of the park visitors coming between the months of May to September, it is important to plan a visit during these months in advance. Visitors who come during the busy season can expect long lines at entrance stations, limited parking availability, heavy vehicle traffic on park roads and foot traffic on trails, and fully booked campgrounds.

If you are planning a trip to the park in the summer or early fall, consider the following tips:

  1. Arrive early or later in the day to popular trailheads such as Glacier Gorge, Bear Lake, and Wild Basin Corridor
  2. For those who are camping, reserve your campsite as far in advance as possible
  3. Consider exploring the west side since more than eighty percent of visitors will use the east entrances
  4. Visit on a weekday instead of a weekend
  5. Check the weather forecast, road and trail conditions, and area closures on the day of your visit

Wintertime in Rocky Mountain National Park

Wintertime brings unpredictable weather, but the park is much quieter during this time of year and equally as beautiful. Here are five activities for those who want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter.

1. Hiking

The park boasts three hundred sixty-five miles of trails, so hikers of all skill levels will be able to find trails they can enjoy. With several of the visitors’ centers open year-round, park rangers are also available to help visitors find the trails that fit their needs. 

While the summer is a good time to explore the west side of the park, the east side experiences lighter snowfalls, with many of the lower-elevation trails remaining open all winter. Some popular winter trails include Fern Lake, Cub Lake, Chasm Falls, Gem Lake, Deer Mountain, and Upper Beaver Meadows. 

2. Sledding

Happy Valley is the only place in Rocky Mountain National Park where sledding is permitted within a fenced area. Restrooms and a warming hut are also located near the snow play area.

3. Snowshoeing 

For those looking to explore higher-elevation trails during the winter, snowshoeing is a great option. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are offered for free from January to March, as conditions allow, but reservations must be made for these popular hikes.

4. Cross Country Skiing

The western side of Rocky Mountain National Park features deeper snow and flatter terrain, which makes for better skiing, but cross-country skiers can be found across the park. 

5. Wildlife Watching

Wildlife such as snowshoe hares, ptarmigans, coyotes, elk, and mule deer can easily be spotted throughout the park during the winter. Moose are frequently seen along the Colorado River on the park’s western side.

Where to Stay When Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park

Estes Park is a beautiful mountain town and serves as an ideal base camp for those wishing to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. The town offers a number of hotels, inns, and vacation rentals to accommodate all different kinds of groups.

High Peak Camp is a Christian camp located in Estes Park, just minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and operated by The Salvation Army Intermountain Division. High Peak’s mission is “To use nature and the great outdoors as a setting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, teach environmental awareness, encourage prosocial behavior and safely provide opportunity to every camper for fun and adventure.”

High Peak’s facilities are available for groups to rent for retreats and events. To learn more about Camp High Peak or to rent it out for your next retreat, contact us!