Plan Your Trip
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in north central Colorado. It offers a unique experience year-round for outdoor adventures, sightseeing and opportunities to soak up the natural beauty that surrounds the area. Whether you visit just for the day, or you plan to camp throughout the park, there is so much to fill your hours with that Rocky Mountain National Park will quickly become one of your frequent and favorite places to visit.
Choose Your Own Path
There are three roads that guide visitors through the park: Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake Road and Old Fall River Road.
Trail Ridge Road
Cross the Continental Divide and travel from east to west and back again on the highest paved continuous highway in the United States. This main thoroughfare covers over 50 miles of the park. Designed to replace Old Fall River Road, which became inadequate for modern vehicles of the time, Trail Ridge Road opened in 1932 and offered visitors smooth, broad curves, moderate grades and more scenic mountain experiences.
Trail Ridge Road promises instant adventure as you drive past Deer Ridge Junction with views of Long's Peak and Rainbow Curve, for a panoramic view of many of the park's grand peaks. Continue on pass tree line and onward to Forest Canyon Overlook and the Lava Cliffs for stunning views of hidden lakes and the Never Summer Mountains.
Gaze at the stellar rooftop-of-the-rockies scenery as you travel past the summit at 12,183 feet above sea level. Just before Many Parks Curve, be sure to stop at the Trail Ridge Store and Café at Trail ridge for a chance to stretch your legs and pick up souvenirs, gifts, snacks and beverages before continuing your visit through the park.
As you head back down the mountain, once again you are surrounded by thick forests of aspen, fir and ponderosa pine. Stop at Milner Pass and take a picture of your family at the Continental Divide sign. Some of the best picnic spots and trailheads can be found as Trail Ridge Road elevation decreases. As the road comes to an end, glimpses of Kawuneeche Valley and the Colorado River will catch your eye. Follow Trail Ridge Road as it complete's its tour and leads you to Colorado's largest natural lake, Grand Lake.
Put aside at least four to six hours for the trip. Longer, if possible.
Bear Lake Road
The heart of Rocky Mountain National park is just ten miles away from the east entrance of the park. Bear Lake Road is your guide and although most ten mile stretches of road may take just a few minutes, the drive Bear Lake Road offers will give you a longing to slow your pace and relish in the journey it affords you. Wildlife are in abundance along this road. With plenty of streams and ponds that follow alongside the road, it's not unusual to spot elk, mule deer, beaver and a Colorado chipmunk or two mixed in with the lush forest that sits on each side of the road.
Most visitors take Bear Lake Road with the the popular Bear Lake as their destination goal. The lake rests beneath the sheer flanks of the Continental Divide and it's many peaks. Several trails, from easy strolls to strenuous hikes, start from the lake. But, Glacier Basin and Sprague Lake offer additional scenic views worth stopping for. Short trailheads, fishing and horseback riding can be found in this area of the park. Capture a picture with your camera of Sprague Lake in the foreground and majestic snow-capped mountains in the background, after just a short hike. Some of the best Rocky Mountain sunrises and sunsets can seen all throughout this drive. The Bear Lake Road is open year-round, however be sure to check if the road is closed at the the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in the event of inclement weather.
Old Fall River Road
Before the establishment of Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915, Old Fall River Road was the first road to cross the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado. At the time, travelers could expect unpaved road, steep grades, and tight switchbacks . . . a treacherous route to view the some of the most stunning lanscape of the world. Soon after Trail Ridge Road was completed in 1932, a portion of the Old Fall River Road became a one-way scenic drive from Endovalley up to Fall River Pass.
Open only during the summer months, visitors can still expect steep grades and switchbacks, but offers pullouts to capture views such as, Endovalley Overlook, Chasm Falls and Chapin Creek Trailhead. You'll get a feel for what it was like to travel across the mountains in the early days of the automobile and a taste to explore more of the history of Rocky Mountain National Park. Old Fall River Road is nine miles long and because of the sharp switchbacks, pulled trailers are not allowed and max vehicle length is 25 feet.
Knowing just a few key tips before making your trip to Rocky Mountain National Park can make your visit that much more enjoyable.
Leave No Trace
Help preserve the park by the following Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics:
If you live at a much lower elevation you might consider giving yourself an extra day to acclimate before exerting yourself to avoid getting altitude sickness. Consider spending one night at a higher elevation, especially if you are coming from sea level or below. Check with any ranger station or visitor center for trail conditions and weather predictions so you can gear up and wear appropriate clothing. Rapid changes in temperatures and synonymous with the Rocky Mountains. A sunny morning can turn into a heavy thunderstorm with freezing temperatures and snow by midday. The chance of dehydration, sunburn, mountain sickness can occur quickly. Drink plenty of water, wear and re-apply sunscreen regularly and if you begin to feel sick, decend to lower elevations immediately. Consult your doctor if you have a respiratory or heart condition. Visit the National Park Service' High Country Hazards Web page for more information.
Pets are allowed in the park, but not on park trails or in the backcountry. They may accompany you on a leash at picnic areas, campgrounds and along roadsides. Never leave pets unattended in your vehicle.