Over the past twenty years that my family has lived in Colorado, we have spent many weekends discovering the all of the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is no wonder as the US News-Travel suggests that Rocky Mountain National Park is in the top 5 places to visit in Colorado.
If you want to elevate your experience while in the park, try a GyPSy Guide Audio Tour. The GyPSy Guide Audio Tour of Rocky Mountain National Park is fantastic.
Top 10 Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
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If you come to visit our family, chances are good that we will take you to visit Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
We visit the national park so often that we always purchase the annual America the Beautiful—The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass.
Did you know that US Military members receive this pass for FREE?
The pass is also free to all US 4th grade students. Be sure to follow the instructions on the Every Kid Outdoors website.
Not only does having the yearly pass inspire us to visit Rocky Mountain National Park often, but we also plan vacations around other national parks in the United States. It’s a win-win.
In fact, we have had some amazing trips planned to these parks recently:
If you love to visit our nation’s greatest parks, I encourage you to invest in an annual pass.
What are the Top 10 Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park?
1. Drive Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States.
Designated as both a scenic and historic byway, Trail Ridge Road crosses the Continental Divide just over 12,000 feet.
The road is only open from Memorial Day through the middle of October, and even then you may encounter some snow and much cooler temperatures.
Trail Ridge Road links Estes Park from the east to Grand Lake in the west. The road winds through Rocky Mountain National Park offering some of the park’s best views.
Be sure to stop at the Alpine Visitor Center and check out the panoramic vista surrounding you.
2. Climb to the Elevation Marker at the Alpine Visitor Center
The Alpine Visitor Center, located along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, is the highest visitor center in the national park system. The views are stunning. Even more so if you set off up the hill to the elevation marker at 12,006 feet above sea level.
If you happen to play the license plate game, chances are you will find a few out-of-state plates in the parking lot as the Alpine Visitor Center is a popular tourist destination.
3. Drive Old Fall River Road
After many years of living in Colorado, my husband and I finally drove the Old Fall River Road (instead of Trail Ridge Road) to the Alpine Visitor Center and then on to Grand Lake.
Before Trail Ridge Road was finished in 1933, Old Fall River Road was the means of accessing Rocky Mountain National Park’s high country.
If you drive it today, note that it is a one-way gravel road without guardrails starting at Endovalley. The road is 11 miles long with numerous switchbacks and a posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour.
Whether you have your own snowshoes or rent from the shops in Estes Park, be prepared for some amazing winter scenery within Rocky Mountain National Park.
Chris and I snowshoed to Alberta Falls and then from the falls up to Bear Lake. I don’t think I have ever felt my heart pound with so much exertion.
If you are going to venture out on snowshoes, just remember that the elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park is much higher than many tourists are accustomed to and be prepared with the appropriate winter hiking gear and safety equipment.
5. Take Pictures
Taking pictures is one of my favorite hobbies, and even though we have been to Rocky Mountain National Park dozens of times, I still find something beautiful to photograph each time we explore the park.
6. Play in the Snow
One of our girls’ favorite memories is hiking to Alberta Falls in the snow on New Year’s Day and playing on the falls.
The falls had frozen over and we jumped off ledges, built a snow fort, and threw snowballs. Rocky Mountain National Park is perfect for making family memories Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall.
The park is open to hiking all year round. Just be sure to come prepared for the weather.
7. Check out the Fall Foliage
Fall Foliage in the park is stunning. While the colors aren’t always as varied as in other national parks, the vibrant yellows of the aspen trees in Rocky Mountain National Park can’t be missed.
8. Ride Horses
To be fair, our family has never ridden horses in the park, but we see evidence that horses have been on the hiking trails.
There are a number of stables where you can schedule rides in the park.
9. Spot Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park
While the wildlife in Rocky Mountain National park is abundant, awesome and often majestic to look at, it is illegal to feed the animals. And don’t be like the crazy people we see who get out of their vehicles to get a closer look at elk, bears, and moose!
10. Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
There are numerous hikes within Rocky Mountain National Park (click on this link for more detailed information). You’ll find hikers of all ages, from dad’s carrying babies on their backs to older couples enjoying the outdoors.
- Alberta Falls
- Bear Lake
- Bierstadt Lake
- Deer Mountain Trail
- East Portal Hike
- Lake Haiyaha
- Lawn Lake
- Lily Lake
- Loch Vale
- Mills Lake
- Ouzel Falls and Lake
- Ypsilon Lake
How to Get to Rocky Mountain National Park from the Airport
Travel by Car
If you have access to a car or are planning to rent a car for your visit, the map above shows the most direct route from Denver (and surrounding areas) to Estes Park. You will need to have a National Park pass to enter RMNP as well as a timed-entry reservation if you are visiting between May and October. (See below).
Travel by Bus
Ride the Bustang bus from Union Station in the heart of downtown Denver all the way to Rocky Mountain National Park on weekends and holidays from the end of May until the first of October.
Tickets to ride the Bustang bus are only $5.00 each way for Denver (also from Westminster and Boulder, and $3.00 each way from Lyons) and are about 2 1/2 hours each way.
PLEASE NOTE: Tickets must be reserved in advance to save your seat. Plan to pay with cash? Select the “Pay Cash on Board” option as your ticket type when you begin the reservation process.
If you choose, you can get off the bus in Estes Park, (located near the park’s east entrance) or ride the bus all the way to the park n’ ride in Rocky Mountain National Park. Here you will transfer to the free Bear Lake or Moraine Park shuttles to explore more of the park.
If you choose to get off in Estes Park first but still want to enter the park later, you can make a reservation on the park’s Hiker Shuttle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I plan to visit Estes Park too?
Yes. Estes Park is just outside the national park entrance. There are many things to do in Estes Park, Colorado. If you have time, plan to stay in Estes Park for at least a few days and explore the town and the national park to your heart’s content.
What is the Rocky Mountain National Park Reservation System?
Due to the popularity of the park, Rocky Mountain National Park requires a timed-entry reservation through their online system if you wish to visit the park from May to October. The reservations can be purchased for a nominal fee of $2. However, interest in RMNP is high and you will need to make your reservation as soon as tickets become available for the next month. Check the website for the ticket schedule.
Do I need a separate pass to visit the Bear Lake Corridor in RMNP?
Yes. Due to the popularity of the Bear Lake Road Corridor in the park, you will be required to a have a specific reservation to visit this area.
If this is your first time visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, you WILL want to choose this option. Bear Lake is stunning and there are many great hikes—short and long—that can be accessed along the corridor. You can also visit the entire park with this pass.
Is there a pass that excludes the Bear Lake Corridor?
Yes. With this reservation, you can visit anywhere in Rocky Mountain National Park except for the Bear Lake Road Corridor. You must visit the park during your reservation window.
Is there parking along the Bear Lake Corridor?
Yes. Please note that having a reservation does not guarantee parking. You are encouraged to make use of the shuttle system once you are in the national park on Bear Lake Road to reach Bear Lake.
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Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a national treasure within Colorado.
It covers an area of 415 square miles with the Continental Divide running north to south through the park. After 20+ years of visiting the park, we are still finding new hikes and areas to explore.