Date and Time: Around 3 pm on 28th September 2019.
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the USA and is definitely one of the bucket-list destinations for many national park and outdoor lovers. Rocky Mountain National Park has spectacular landscapes and spans over the Continental Divide in northern Colorado, USA. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The Park offers different landscapes through majestic snow capped rocky mountains, jagged granite peaks, vast and windswept alpine tundra, picturesque forested valleys, wild woodlands, pristine lakes, tall and seasonal golden aspen trees, graceful waterfalls, colorful wildflowers, and amazing wildlife and many more. The park is home for more than 60 species of mammals, including elk, bighorn sheep, and moose.The park features astonishing alpine scenery through a well accessible series of extraordinary trails.
Click on the links below to explore more.
Quick Facts and Tips
- Best time to Visit: June to September
- Fall is great with clear and crips air, blue sky with aspen trees turning golden, but prepare yourself for very chilly morning and evenings
- Summer is most comfortable, but be ready to beat the crowd
- Spring is unpredictable, varies between warm, cold, wet and dry and many trails are still covered with snow
- Fly Into
- Denver International Airport: Approximately 80 miles to Beaver Meadow visitor Center
- Summer: Casual t-shirts, shorts, tank tops, capris, rain jackets, comfortable hiking shoes, light jackets or long sleeves for the cool morning and evenings
- Fall and Spring: Long sleeves, fleece and warm jackets, vests, scarf, hat, gloves, and comfortable hiking shoes
- Accommodations: East side Estes park is bigger and has more lodging and restaurants compared to West side Grand Lake. No lodging inside the park, but campsites are available
- What to expect
- Impressive snow capped mountains, Wild Woodlands, Jagged Granite peaks and Forested Valleys, Windswept Alpine Tundra, Pristine Lakes, Graceful Waterfalls, Colorful Wildflowers, and Amazing Wildlife
- How many days: 2 to 3 days
- Entrance Fee: $25 per vehicle, $15/$25 per person/motorcycle
- Be sure to check the Park Website for current updates on roads closures and trails conditions before you heading out
- Check the weather forecast before you go. Weather changes rapidly so wear layers and carry rain gear/extra clothing
- Trail Ridge Road is generally open from the late May through October, depending on weather conditions. Take food and water so you can spend the day touring
- Starting early is the best way not only to beat the traffic, but also for the best lighting, more elbow room, increased chance of seeing wildlife, and beating out the afternoon thunderstorms
- Expect long lines, wait times, and delays at entrance stations during the busiest summer season
- Use park free shuttles as the parking lots fill up quickly and roads are getting congested due to heavy traffic. The free shuttle runs every 30 mins between 9am to 8:30pm from Estes Park Visitor center. Free parking is available at Estes Park Visitor Center. The free Hiker Shuttle Express Route takes you into the park and you can catch the shuttle to Bear Lake Route, Moraine Park Route, or just start hiking directly from the Park & Ride along the Bear Lake Road corridor. More info here
- The trails are busy during the summer season. Bring plenty of water and snacks like granola bars/frozen grapes
- Take caution and follow the posted signs while driving through the park for pullovers to take photos or to view wildlife
- Keep some extra time for stopping for photos, sights, unexpected wildlife encounters, detours, and for unplanned delays
- Be aware of wildlife on the road or near the road. Viewing wildlife from inside the car is the the best and safest way
- If you experience high altitude sickness, slow down, sit for a while, drink plenty of water, and take your own time while hiking high elevation trails
- Weak/no cell phone signals, highly recommend to have maps downloaded or printed
- There is a lot to capture, so keep your camera ready. Make sure that camera is fully charged and also keep backup battery and memory cards
- Best things To Do
- Explore the Estes Park, the east side of the park. Picture and more details here
- Enjoy hiking to gorgeous lakes by taking well maintained scenic trails. For more details with images click on Lakes and Trails
- Have a thrilling and memorable adventure drive on the highway to the sky, the Trail Ridge Road. Pictures and details here
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the USA. It is renowned for its spectacular landscapes. The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west in the state of Colorado. Estes Park town is in northern Colorado and it is the base for the Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park has more lodging and restaurants than Grand Lake. The East side of the park mesmerizes with its incredible landscapes from snow capped granite peaks to crystal clear lakes and gorgeous waterfalls along with many accessible trails with stunning views.
These photos are from a two day visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in late September 2019. The Aspen trees started turning into golden colors, the alpine tundra turned to yellowish brown, and the elk mating season had just begun. These brought the park’s magnificent views though it was a cloudy and gloomy day.
Places to Go
- Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, Sheep Lakes, Moraine Park discovery Center and Amphitheater, Alluvial Fan Falls, Alberta Falls
- Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha, Sprague Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Cub Lake
Best Things To Do
- Drive along the scenic Bear Lake Road. Visit Moraine Park Discovery Center and Moraine Park Amphitheater. There are plenty of pull-outs or overlooks along Bear Lake Road. Keep some extra time for stopping for photos, wildlife, sights, and for unplanned delays
- Take a short drive on South Moraine Road and Fern Lake Road. Enjoy Moraine Park which has vast beautiful meadows and amazing roaming wildlife in the backdrop of snow capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the distant
- Drive Fall River Road and stop at the scenic overlook Horseshoe Park and Sheep Lakes. Good photo-op for elk and sheep in this scenic meadow
- Hike the Bear Lake Loop Trail and embrace the gorgeous lake surrounded by the magnificent peaks. More info here
- Enjoy hiking to Emerald Lake, a stunning emerald green alpine lake which offers outstanding views of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, and wildflowers. The hike is more delightful with the beautiful floating lily pads covering Nymph Lake and gorgeous Dram Lake along the way. More details here
- Hike to the gorgeous waterfall Alberta Falls that falls over a rocky cliff. This waterfall is easily accessible from the Glacier Gorge parking area or the Bear Lake parking area
- Relax and relish at Alluvial Fan Falls. The trail feathers a waterfall over big boulders. This trail also offers hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching
- Hike the popular and splendid Sprague Lake Trail, Bierstadt Lake Trail, Lake Haiyaha Trail, Cub Lake Trail and Fern Lake Trail
- Explore downtown Estes Park
- Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
- Enjoy kayaking on Lake Estes
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. The park mesmerizes people with its breathtaking diverse landscapes of snow covered mountains, jagged valleys, pristine lakes, alpine trees and tundra, seasonal abundance wildflowers, and amazing wildlife. The park is a paradise with many gorgeous alpine lakes. The park has 156 lakes with 450 miles of streams. There are plenty of scenic paths with 300 miles of hiking trails that will lead to a number of pristine and crystal blue picturesque lakes within the park.
These photos are from our two day visit to Rocky Mountain National Park in the last week of September 2019.
Places to Go
- Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, Lake Haiyaha, Sprague Lake, Bierstadt Lake, Cub Lake, Sky Pond, The Loch Lake, Gem Lake, Chasm Lake
Best Things To Do: Enjoy hiking easy, popular, less than 4 mile short trails that are the most scenic. Embrace the breathtaking views of the gorgeous lakes surrounded by magnificent peaks along the hikes.
- Bear Lake Trail: This is an easy, popular, busy, and short 0.7 mile loop trail. The trail begins from the Bear Lake Trailhead beyond the Bear Lake Ranger Station located at the end of Bear Lake Road. The trail offers a gorgeous lake surrounded by magnificent peaks. The trail circles around the subalpine lake and passes through a woodland of pine and aspen trees. Parking lots fill up quickly during the morning of the summer season so start early for a better chance to get a parking spot; you will be lucky to get a parking spot early. It is highly recommended to use the free park shuttle at the Estes Park Visitor Center in order to avoid the congested traffic and hassle of parking. Do the hike in the early morning in the counterclockwise direction for great photos of Hallett Peak and Longs Peak reflecting off the lake during calm weather.
- Nymph Lake: It is a short, easy, mostly paved 1.2 mile round trip hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead. The trail makes a steady climb up with a glimpse of Longs Peak through the jagged forest. The trail offers a beautiful lake with the floating layer of yellow lily pads. In the summer, the lake is covered with yellow blossoms of lily pads. You can further continue hiking to reach another pretty lake, Dream Lake.
- Dream Lake: This 2 mile round trip hike to Dream Lake begins from the Bear Lake Trailhead. The trail becomes a steep climb for a small portion after Nymph Lake. This portion of trail, between Nymph Lake and Dream Lake offers an outstanding view of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, and an abundance of wildflowers during the summer. At around 1.1 miles from the Bear Lake Trailhead you will hit the junction for the trails that lead to Dream lake and Lake Haiyaha. Take the right trail to continue on towards Dream Lake. At the end, the views of Hallett Peak, Flattop Mountain, and subalpine lake are spectacular. You can further continue to hike to another jewel Emerald Lake.
- Emerald Lake Trail: This hike is the most popular, busy, and is considered as a moderate trail. This 3.3 mile round trip hike through the forested jagged valley offers amazing scenery with high peaks, three beautiful lakes: Nymph lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and the waterfalls. The hike to Emerald Lake begins from the Bear Lake Trailhead, located at the end of Bear Lake Road. The first lake, Nymph Lake is at around 0.6 miles. After passing Nymph lake, the hike becomes steep uphill. Continuing climbing up about 0.5 miles to reach the second lake, Dream Lake. The trail has a series of steep steps. If you experience high altitude sickness, slow down, sit for a while, drink plenty of water, and take your own time. As you climb up, around 0.5 miles you pass through a very pleasant and impressive pine forest. At the end of the hike, you see the real beauty of Emerald Lake carved by Tyndall Glacier. Embrace the subalpine lake while listening to the sound of a waterfall rushing down the gorge between the two mountains.
- Lake Haiyaha Trail: This is a less crowded trail when compared to the popular Emerald Lake trail. This 3.6 mile out and back trail begins at Bear Lake Trailhead then goes around Nymph Lake. After passing Nymph lake around 0.3 miles, you hit the junction for the trails that lead to Dream lake and Lake Haiyaha. Take the left trail and hike almost a mile to reach Lake Haiyaha. The hike offers a giant rock-filled blue lake, a waterfall, and colorful wildflowers that bloom throughout the spring season.
- Sprague Lake Trail: This paved trail is a short and easy 0.8 mile loop trail located at the end of Sprague Lake Road. The trail features a beautiful lake and impressive surrounding peaks. Hike the trail in the morning to capture wonderful photos of panoramic views of the Continental Divide and majestic peaks reflecting on the lake. The sunset reflections surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks at Sprague Lake is also simply amazing.
- Bierstadt Lake Trail: This 3.2 mile loop trail begins from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead and is considered as moderate. The trail offers a gorgeous lake with stunning panoramic views of mountains along the Continental Divide. It is a steep uphill trail with a series of switchbacks to reach the top of the Bierstadt Moraine. Approximately 1 mile from the Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, just after top of the Bierstadt Moraine, the trail reaches the Bierstadt Lake Loop Trail junction. Take right at the junction and a short walk in order to reach the southwestern shore of the lake for great photos.