Skip to Content

The Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

The Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

At more than 12,000 feet and home to several Alpine lakes, Rocky Mountain National Park offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the United States.

Travelers who like the outdoors or just want some time away from the city will enjoy this short 90-mile adventure northwest of Denver. Rocky Mountain National Park draws many tourists among America’s most famous national parks.

No surprise, over three million people visit the park annually, with beautiful peaks surrounding you, wildlife roaming the valleys, and outdoor experiences abounding.

Not yet convinced? Rocky Mountain National Park is a spectacular holiday spot with various activities and sights to take your breath away.

Why Should You Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park pictured during the best time to visit

Alfie Photography/Shutterstock

A journey to the Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-do for every travel enthusiast. Here are just a few reasons why.

Magnificent Mountains

Over a hundred peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park are over 12,000 feet in elevation, including Longs Peak, which stands at 14,259 feet above sea level.

Residents and visitors to Estes Valley are treated to breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, which encircle the valley like a protective shield.

Wildlife

Even if it is theoretically possible to go across Rocky Mountain National Park without seeing any animals, we will dare to suggest that such an experience is rare.

The creatures in the park give you the sense that you are a part of something wild, whether it’s the routine experience of seeing chipmunks and mule deer or the emotionally wrenching experience of seeing elk in rut.

Park Amenities

Rocky Mountain National Park offers services and facilities to make your visit memorable and stress-free, in addition to its natural treasures. 

You should browse the tourist information and go to a visitor center to get all the knowledge you need, such as where you are going, what you should do, and how you should get ready. 

You may also get assistance organizing your journey to Rocky Mountain National Park by downloading the official app developed by the National Park Service.

Incredible Adventures

Rocky Mountain National Park has something to do for the outdoor enthusiast, no matter what time of year it is. There are activities and sporting events held during the summer or fall and spring or winter seasons, and the facility is open 365 days a year. 

Whether you’re trying to find a new way to get an adrenaline rush or just want to enjoy a beloved hobby doesn’t matter. Rocky Mountain National Park’s distinct and diverse landscapes have something enjoyable to offer.

Craft Beer

A day on the trail deserves a refreshing beverage, and no state takes its beer culture more seriously than Colorado. Do something nice for yourself and take a quick tour of the brewery. Estes Park is home to five breweries that focus on producing craft beer. 

Visit Rock Cut Brewing Company if you like an excellent India Pale Ale (IPA). If alcoholic beverages are more your thing, you won’t be let down by the Dancing Pines Distillery, which offers unusual liqueur tastes like a cherry tart.

Overall Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Family on summer vacation and hiking during the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Margaret.Wiktor/Shutterstock

June through September are ideal for visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park. During this season, visitors can easily access the park’s hiking trails and other attractions.

However, these months are the busiest periods of the year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Regardless of whether there is snow or sunlight, the park is available to the public twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, all year long.

However, some areas of the park may be inaccessible during certain seasons. Summer is a great time to go hiking since much of the snow has melted in the higher altitudes.

After mid-June and beyond, you may embark on longer vacations to the mountains without fear of being affected by winter weather. During the summer, the weather is ideal for sleeping outside since it is warm during the day and cool at night.

The ideal time to see animals in Rocky Mountain National Park is spring, summer, and autumn. Many big species in the park give birth to their young throughout the spring, including elk, moose, and mule deer.

Late spring and summer are the best times to go rock climbing in the park.

It’s raptor nesting season. Therefore, several roads are blocked in March and April for the benefit of the birds. Even if there is still a lot of snow at higher altitudes, routes usually reopen in May.

Cheapest Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Guy with his hood up hiking on a trail during the cheapest time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park

haveseen/Shutterstock

Go to Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter if you’re trying to save money on your vacation. Snowshoeing, sledding, and cross-country skiing are excellent sports best enjoyed during the winter. 

Throughout the winter, some activities are guided by park rangers that may be enjoyed on both sides of the park. Even if the main thoroughfares are restricted to car traffic, pedestrians can still reach them.

As a general rule, the Colorado River Trailhead remains accessible whenever the weather permits. Old Fall River Road will be closed to traffic, but Bear Lake Road will remain accessible. Many hotel establishments and tourist centers are closed during this time of year.

The Kawuneeche Valley and the Beaver Meadows Visitor Centers are open year-round. You may also discover available lodging and dining options in the downtown areas of the neighboring towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park.

Least Busy Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Snow on mountains during the extreme winter during the worst time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park

FashionStock.com/Shutterstock

It’s best to visit Rocky Mountain National Park between November and April to escape the crowds. Weekends throughout the summer and autumn are the busiest times in the park, and the total number of visitors increases yearly.

In 2018, there were approximately 4.6 million individuals who went to the park, but from November until April, only a little more than 0.6 million people went.

The park transforms into a true winter wonderland when there is a lot of snow and fewer people, and you will likely have it all to yourself for a good portion of the day.

Consider these recommendations if summer is your only chance to visit the park:

  • Go on a hike. The farther you go away from the major highways, the fewer people there are.
  • Discover the Wild West. The east half of the park receives 80 percent of visitors, while the less busy west side boasts gorgeous landscapes as well as stunning perspectives.
  • Get out of bed early. If you get up earlier in the day, it will be easier to get a parking place, and the hiking trails will also be less busy.
  • Before attempting to enter the park, it is recommended that you go on the website and view the situation from the park’s webcam that is located within the park.

Worst Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Young woman in a bandanna hiking during the least busy time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Kris Wiktor/Shutterstock

The worst time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is summer because it’s packed with visitors, and hotels are more expensive due to higher demand. July and August are the busiest months at the park.

Because of the large number of people in the park, traveling to different spots inside may take longer than usual. However, your choices for activities are almost limitless.

You can go camping, fishing, trekking, and hiking if you want to. You have several alternatives, including participating in a program guided by park rangers or taking a road trip throughout the park. 

Because almost all lodgings and the campsite within the park are now accepting guests, there are infinite opportunities for overnight stays inside and outside the park.

When visiting the park in the summer, having a good plan can help you explore as much as possible. You could also wish to visit the park’s western parts, which are less congested.

Things to Consider

Guy standing atop a mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park during the best time to visit, the Spring or Fall

Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock

Rocky Mountain National Park has about 355 miles of hiking routes, including small lake circuits and lengthy high-elevation hikes. We’ve compiled a list of tips for visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park to maximize your trip.

Water Is Essential

Don’t forget to bring water! Hiking at a high altitude necessitates frequent hydration. Bring extra water when needed.

Layers and Rain Gear

Dress in layers and carry rain gear. The weather may change quickly, and temperatures might vary depending on altitude. 

Wearing layers is the greatest way to keep comfortable when hiking, and avoid textiles made of cotton, which may absorb moisture, causing your garments to get wet and create nasty consequences.

Go With a Companion

Bring a companion. Find a hiking buddy and stick together on the trek. A companion may save your life in various situations, from rolling ankles to major injuries. If you must go out on your own, notify somebody of your route and when you expect to return.

Go Early

Depart early. It is preferable to depart early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms that might bring severe lightning.

Always Look at Weather Updates

Be on the lookout for weather updates. In the highlands, the weather may change in an instant. Stay abreast of the day’s weather prediction and be ready for it to change.

Pack the Essentials

Make sure you pack wisely. Snacks like chocolates, hard-boiled eggs, first aid kits, and flashlights are highly recommended.

Hiking Boots and Socks

Boots and socks are essential. You must wear proper hiking footwear to have a safe and enjoyable hiking experience. Visit the Outfitters in Estes Park to get your hands on some new hiking boots. To avoid blisters and keep your feet dry, use wool socks.

Follow the Rules

The rules are there for a reason. While trekking, be mindful of the animals and the surrounding surroundings. Leave footsteps and photographs behind you, and abide by the “leave only footprints and photographs” guideline.

No Need to Hurry

Take it slow. Keeping a relaxed pace on the route can help you avoid being fatigued. Taking stops to rehydrate, refuel, and take in the view is not anything to be embarrassed about.

Savor every moment. Remember to take advantage of the experience and the natural splendor that surrounds you as much as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Alpine Visitor Center pictured for an image for a piece on the Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Ronda Kimbrow/Shutterstock

Our goal is to make your Rocky Mountain National Park visit as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions.

Is Rocky Mountain National Park safe to visit?

Rocky Mountain National Park is relatively safe. Even though it is not common to meet wild animals in the park, hikers still need to take steps to keep themselves and their children safe. Make sure you don’t go hiking alone. Make noise and keep your children near you to prevent a cougar surprise. When confronted by a mountain lion, do not flee, but keep your distance.

Is it worth driving through Rocky Mountain National Park?

This route -- a 9-mile one-way stretch of the park’s original road -- is well worth the effort if you’re driving here. Alpine Visitor Center has it on display. To see the entire scope of the park, we recommend driving up Fall River, followed by Trail Ridge.

Is there always snow in the Rocky Mountains?

The east slope’s lower altitudes don’t get as much snow as the higher ones. There are arctic conditions at the highest reaches of a mountain. High winds and heavy snowfall are prevalent in the area. On the other hand, more snow, less wind, and bright, chilly days are seen on the park’s west side.

Is there a timed entry permit system at Rocky Mountain National Park?

A timed entrance permit is required for visitors who arrive by car between 6 am and 5 pm in Rocky Mountain National Park, regardless of whether they are parking within or outside the park’s boundaries.

Why was a timed entry system put in place?

Rocky Mountain National Park introduced a timed admission system last June 2020 to expand park access while allowing visitors a fair chance to comply with COVID-19 requirements by minimizing congestion. With nearly five million people in 2019, it was the third most visited park, causing congestion in many parts of the park during the summer and autumn.

Are pets allowed at Rocky Mountain National Park?

You can bring a pet as long as you won’t leave your animal companion alone or tethered to a stationary item. Pets must be controlled at all times by a leash. The owners are responsible for cleaning up after their animals.

Where should you eat at Rocky Mountain National Park?

Although there are no actual dining places inside the park itself, the Trail Ridge Store, located next to the Alpine Visitor Center at the very end of Trail Ridge Road, sells a few snacks and other light fare items. The park has several picturesque picnic sites, each equipped with tables and pit or flush toilets.

So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

Summer is the most ideal for traveling to Rocky Mountain National Park since during this season, the snow has melted, and visitors can easily access the park’s hiking trails and other attractions. 

To get the most out of Rocky Mountain National Park, you should aim to stay there for at least three days. If you do this, you will have enough time to drive down Alpine Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road and trek a couple of the trails.

Organizing your trip in advance is of the utmost importance. This will ensure that you have fewer anxieties, or none at all, while on vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. Happy travels!