Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
Seasons, Fees, Permits & ReservationsRocky Mountain National Park is open all year round, but road closures and weather conditions affect the park seasonally. Be sure to check current conditions before you come, and stop in and talk to a ranger when you arrive, especially if you're planning on hitting the backcountry. The standard entrance fee is $20 per car, and $10 per pedestrian, motorcycle, bike or moped. Entry is good for seven consecutive days. Check the park's website for information on special passes and commercial fees. Permits are required for backcountry camping, and permit reservations carry an administrative fee of $20 during the summer peak season. Moraine Park, Aspenglen and Glacier Bay motor campgrounds take reservations, as do group camping sites. Reservations are highly recommended. All other park campgrounds are first-come, first-served sites. Year round campgrounds shut off their water during the winter months.
Visitor CentersRocky Mountain National Park has five main visitor centers, two of which are open all year round. The Alpine Visitor Center, open during the summer, offers ranger led nature walks in the high country and exhibits about the alpine tundra. The visitor center at Beaver Meadow is open all year, and is a good place to check in with a ranger about trail conditions and pick up backcountry permits. Guide books are also available for purchase. While it isn't a visitor center, the Holzwarth Historic Site is an original dude ranch that has been restored to its Prohibition-era rustic charm. Guests can learn about the ranch and the area's tourism history, as well as tour the preserved buildings and taxidermy studio.
Scenic DrivesTrail Ridge and Old Fall River roads are great for sightseeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge Road is a 48-mile route that leads from Estes Park westward to Grand Lake, but 11 miles of it is above the tree line. At elevations of more than 11,500 feet, pine forests give way to broad alpine meadows which are great for spotting wildlife, as well as seasonal displays of brilliant wildflowers.
Old Fall River Road is more of a historic drive, as it simulates how the park's first visitors would have toured its passes. Narrow, one-way and made of gravel, the road winds uphill through numerous switchbacks for 11 miles from Horseshoe Park to Fall River Pass. There's no guardrail on the road, and the going is slow -- 15 miles per hour, max -- so it's best to be patient and enjoy the views. You might even spot some elk grazing at Willow Park.
Mountain RangesMountains -- you couldn't miss 'em if you tried. Hiking and climbing are popular activities in Rocky Mountain National Park, but you don't have to be an experienced mountaineer to enjoy their majesty. If you're looking for easier terrain, head north to the Mummy Range, where you'll be treated to gentler grades and forested trails. While the Never Summer Mountains in the western park aren't great for climbing -- the volcanic rocks tend to be loose, craggy and, as the range's name suggests, snow-covered -- the area's trails are good for backpacking, hiking and snowshoeing. You might even see some abandoned mining towns en route.
Sport FishingRocky Mountain National Park allows fishing for sport, subject to regulations. Some lakes are open waters (catch limits apply), others are catch-and-release only and require barbless hooks. Several lakes and streams are closed to fishing either seasonally or all year.
Wildlife ViewingMore than 60 mammal species and 280 recorded bird species live in Rocky Mountain National Park, making the park a hotspot for wildlife viewing. Larger mammals can be seen in the lowland areas during the autumn mating season, and Trail Ridge Road is a popular destination for viewing birds of prey like golden eagles and prairie falcons. When viewing animals, do so at a distance and do not disturb or attempt to feed them.