From alpine lakes to rocky landscapes, Colorado is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Whether someone likes hiking, camping, or exploring with kids, Rocky Mountain National Park is the perfect place to visit if you want to take in all that Colorado has to offer. Plus, it’s easy to access from both Boulder and Denver. If you’re debating a trip out to this national park, here are five reasons why you should visit the Rockies in 2024.
Know Before You Go
An entrance pass is needed to get into Rocky Mountain National Park. Depending on which section of the park you plan on visiting, either a Park Access Timed Entry Permit or a Park Access+ Timed Entry Permit is required to get into the park from May to October. The plus pass includes Bear Lake Road. The permits are sold in two-hour blocks, meaning you must enter the park within that two-hour window. If you plan on exploring off of Bear Lake Road, be sure to arrive at the park early. There is a free shuttle bus available which you can book in advance if you do not want to drive in the park. Thunder and lightning storms are common in the park, so be prepared with rain gear.
5. You Can See a Landscape of Lakes
Rocky Mountain National Park is a pretty special place for the fact that it is home to 147 lakes. Ranging from quick walks to strenuous climbs, these lakes are accessible to anyone. Lily Lake in Estes Park, a handicapped-friendly and easy hike, offers views of Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker, the two tallest mountains in the park. Another popular pick is Emerald Lake, which has crystal-clear water and views of Flattop Mountain in the background. On the way up, you’ll walk through aspen groves and ponderosa pines before arriving at Nymph Lake, which features lilies, and then Dream Lake. Lastly, Gem Pond, which is technically a pond with trapped snowmelt and rainfall, offers amazing views of the Continental Divide, Estes Park, and Longs Peak.
4. You Can Watch Incredible Wildlife
One of the best parts about this park is its not-so-shy wildlife. From watching elk graze grass in the forest to marmots hanging out at higher elevations, the wildlife here is a nice reminder that you’re entering the great wilderness. While exploring the park, you may also see bighorn sheep by the Sheep Lakes, herds of mule deer roaming around, and bats flying at sunrise and sunset. Black bears are also in the park, but the chances of seeing them are minimal. If you do spot wildlife while exploring, do not bother or feed them. Remember, you are in their home.
3. You Can Experience the Fun of Estes Park
Estes Park is a northern mountain town that is known for its easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is just 90 minutes from Denver and offers breathtaking mountain views, wildlife watching opportunities, and downtown activities. It’s a perfect spot for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike since there are many things to do while here. You can go mini golfing and ride a kart with your kids, experience a whitewater rafting adventure with friends, book a day trip to fly fish solo, and of course, take in all of the lakes, hiking trails, and natural beauty around you.
2. You Can Go Hiking and Camping
Hiking and camping while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-do activity. Many avid hikers come here to hike Longs Peak, which is the only 14er in the park. Those who hike this mountain often camp at Longs Peak Campground right by the trailhead. In addition to the lake hikes listed above, many visitors love the easy hike to Alberta Falls via Glacier Gorge Trail, which is a 30-foot cascade, Twin Sisters Peak, an above-treeline hike, Tombstone Ridge via Ute Trail, which offers incredible 360 views, and many more. In addition to Longs Peak Campground, some other great camping spots are Aspenglen Campground, Timber Creek Campground, Glacier Basin Campground, and Mary’s Lake Campground.
1. You Can Enjoy a Scenic Drive or Two
One of the best things about visiting national parks in your RV is that you can still experience the beauty of each park by simply driving through them. There’s nothing like putting on good music and enjoying the view of mountainous landscapes, wild animals, and open land. Rocky Mountain National Park has a few scenic drives that are worth going to. Trail Ridge Road, an All-American Road, has views of the Rockies everywhere you turn, is above treeline for 11 miles, and has beautiful alpine wildflowers spread across the landscape. Old Fall River Road is another great spot that offers gravel switchbacks that are remote and narrow. On this road, you’ll feel fully immersed in nature. Bear Lake Road, which is the access road to many hiking trails, is lined with tall trees and mountain views as well.
With so much to do in Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll never get bored while visiting. After a long day of hiking or weekend of camping, make your way to Estes Park with your friends or family for a well-earned meal or even more adventures! If you’re visiting Colorado’s national parks by RV, we have a complete guide on that as well so you’ll be fully prepared to visit the Rockies in your rig.
See you on the road!