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Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

Ask folks situated east of the Mississippi River to name some of the most iconic and visited national parks of the west and few will likely name Rocky Mountain National Park, but despite its relative anonymity in those eastern parts of the United States, it's far from unknown among those who love the huge national parks of the Rocky Mountains themselves.  Over 2.5 million people visit here every year, #25 on the list of national parks, not far behind Yellowstone and ahead of Glacier, Grand Teton, and Zion.  And there's no doubt to the reason why.  It's huge, it's wonderful, it combines the two diverse sides of the Continental Divide into the wild wet west and the drier east. There's lakes and trails and history all wrapped up in a Colorado locale that's prime for visiting, no matter whether you love to camp or sightsee from your car after a motel stay.  And boy, are there mountains.  High, really high, mountains.  Sixty over 12,000 feet high, with the tallest of them all, Long's Peak, at 14,259 feet.  Yes, you'll be looking up alot, but there's also ground level fun as well, of the wet and dry variety.  Grand Lake provides the backdrop on the western slopes for fishing, boating, and other activities.

There's a variety of visitor centers, five in all and one smaller information station, with three on the eastern side of the park, one on the western, and one in the interior, to visit, and guided tours to follow.  There are trailheads for hikers all around the park, some available through the shuttle system.  There's bighorn sheep, coyote, and elk in abundance, plus a whole lot more wildlife at every turn.

Things You Should Not Miss

1. If you have the time and money, take the guided Trail Ridge Road Tour.  It can be a bit pricey and lasts five hours, but this interpretive tour of the highest continuously paved road in the USA will take you to some of the best spots in the park.  Starts at the Beaver Meadow Visitor Center and runs twice a week in the summer.

2.  Take your time and drive through the park on your own, whether that be on the Trail Ridge Road, the Old Fall River Road, or others.  This is a diverse park, where you'll see meadows and mountains, tundra and streams all along the way.  These roads are not speedways, with posted limits of 15 MPH at certain places, and without guardrails at many spots.  Take care and enjoy the beauty.

3. Let the rangers be your guide.  Take one of the many free ranger guided walks or talks.  There's a great variety on both sides of the park, from the four hour long Tundra to Trees walk at Alpine to the evening programs and campfire talks at the various Visitor Centers and campgrounds.

Rocky Mountain National Park

What is There Now

Alpine Visitor Center
Open from late May to early October, this visitor center near Fall River Pass includes ranger guided walks of the Land Above the Trees, exhibits, and snacks.

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
Year round.  Located three miles west of the town of Estes Park on Route 36 near the eastern entrance to the park. There's a twenty-three minute film, Spirit of the Mountains, here to help orient you to the park.

Fall River Visitor Center
Year round.  Located five miles west of the town of Estes Park on Route 34.

Kawuneechee Visitor Center
Year round.  Located one mile north of Grand Lake near the western entrance to the park.  Ranger walks and a twenty minute film plus more about the Colorado River here.

Moraine Park Visitor Center
Late April to early October.  Located 1.5 miles from Beaver Meadows entrance.  Natural history exhibits and a nature walk.

Lodging and Camping

There are five campgrounds within the park. Backcountry camping is also available.

Aspenglen - Just west of the Fall River Entrance Station, 54 sites. open late May to late September.

Glacier Basin - Six miles south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, 150 sites. open late May to mid September.  Group sites also available.

Longs Peak - Nine miles south of the town of Estes Park, 26 sites, open year round.

Moraine Park - Two and one half miles south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, 245 sites, open year round.  Group sites also available.

Kenuweekche - Ten miles north of Grand Lake on the western side of the park along the Colorado River, 98 sites, open year round.

While there is no lodging within the park itself, the town of Estes Park near the eastern entrance has 150 hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and other lodging choices.

On the western side of the park, small towns like Granby have lodging choices, as well, that might meet your needs.

Rocky Mountain National Park Links

Rocky Mountain National Park
Colorado Tourism

Estes Park Convention and Visitors Bureau
Granby, Colorado Lodging

Nearby Attractions

Arapaho National Recreation Area
Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest and Pawnee Grassland
Mesa Verde National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Then and Now

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park Then

For nearly one hundred years, since 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park has been set aside to allow visitors to view its natural wonders and scenic peaks.  But there is history, not only in the land itself, but within the 150 structures that dot the park, as well as Trail Ridge Road.  The first section of Trail Ridge Road was completed in three years, from 1929 to 1932, and was 17.2 miles long, reaching from Deer Ridge to Fall River Pass.  By 1938, it reached Grand Lake.

Rocky Mountain National Park Now

Rocky Mountain National Park

From the modern conveniences available just outside the park in the town of Estes Park to the various wilderness trails and peaks that dot the Rocky Mountain National Park itself, there's a wide variety of things to do in so many areas of the park, you'd have to spend the entire summer there just to hit the highlights.  But whether you like to tour the scenery on foot, in a car, on a guided bus, or even a bike, you'll marvel at the scenery just outside that window.  The guided walks and talks cover a wide variety of topics, of various lengths as well for the experienced hiker or novice Rocky Mountain visitor who likes a seat to listen to his guide.  With over 265,000 acres, and those 60 mountains over 12,000 feet high, there's a whole lot to discuss and see.

Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.  Trail Ridge Road archive photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Visitor Statistics

Rocky Mountain National Park
2,991,141 visitors

#25 Most Visited National Park Unit

Park Size

Rocky Mountain National Park
265,392 acres (Federal)
265.758 acres

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.

Rocky Mountain NP
Entrance Fees

Car - $20 for 7 days.
Individual (bike, motorcycle, person) - $10 for 7 days.

Fees subject to change without notice.

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Rocky Mountain
National Park

Moderate at lower elevations of Estes Park or Grand Lake, with highs in the 70's and 80's, and lows in the 40's.  At higher elevations, temperatures vary even greater, and it can snow in July.

Rocky Mountain
National Park Transportation

Several shuttles connect locations within the park and to and around the town of Estes Park.

Bear Lake Shuttle - Park n Ride to Bear Lake

Moraine Park Shuttle - Park n Ride to Fern Lake Trailhead

Hiker Shuttle - Estes Park to Park n Ride and Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

Estes Park Shuttle - Several routes running around the town shops, motels, and other businesses.