Getting to Rocky Mountain National Park
There are a number of routes for driving from Denver to Estes Park. Take U.S. Highway 36 to pass through Boulder and Lyons, or drive the Peak to Peak Scenic Highway between Black Hawk and Estes Park for remarkable views of the Front Range mountains.
Getting Around the Park
If you’re looking to hike or sightsee on the east side of the park, avoid traffic by parking your car at the Fairgrounds Park & Ride in Estes Park or at the Park & Ride on Bear Lake Road inside Rocky Mountain. Free shuttle buses connect the Estes Park and Beaver Meadows visitor centers with Park & Ride lots, and popular destinations and trailheads in the park.
Best Times to Visit
Rocky Mountain is open 24 hours a day year-round but is affected seasonally by road closures and weather conditions. With hiking trails completely thawed by early July, mid-June to mid-August is the park’s busiest time of the year. During this period, you can beat the crowds by visiting earlier or later in the day.
Tundra flowers bloom in early July and turn crimson in early September, while subalpine wildflowers bloom in May, and aspens turn golden in late September. Birds and other animals abound in the summer, but for travelers who love wildlife watching, plan your vacation in fall, winter or spring, when animals like elk and bighorn sheep roam at lower elevations. In winter, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing begin Dec. 31 on the west side of the park and Jan. 7 on the east side.
What to See and Do
Go for a Drive
Trail Ridge Road reaches an elevation of 12,183 feet, making it the highest continuous paved road in the United States and the first scenic drive travelers should take in Rocky Mountain. Hop on this 48-mile-long road (typically open from late May to mid-October) from the Beaver Meadows, Fall River or Grand Lake entrances and drive through the heart of Rocky Mountain from Estes Park to Grand Lake, or vice versa.
For another scenic and adventurous drive, the narrow, one-way, gravel Old Fall River Road winds uphill from Horseshoe Park to Fall River Pass and is open in spring, summer and fall. Travelers should take this drive slowly and enjoy the view.