Is It Worth Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park?

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Did you know that Rocky Mountain National Park is among the country’s top five most visited parks?

It’s not hard to believe with the breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, and outdoor recreational activities. It’s one of our favorites, and today, we’re sharing our top things to do in this Colorado park.

Let’s dive in and learn more about why you should visit Rocky Mountain this year!

Where Is Rocky Mountain National Park?

Rocky Mountain encompasses 415 square miles in north-central Colorado. The park is about 68 miles northwest of Denver and 90 miles southeast of Cheyenne.

Estes Park, Colorado is considered the gateway to the national park and offers plenty of shopping, dining, and overnight accommodations.

A sign that has an arrow pointing straight and says "Rocky Mtn Natl Park".

When Did Rocky Mountain National Park Become a National Park?

While mining, logging, and agricultural businesses opposed the idea of a national park protecting the Rockies and its various ecosystems, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act on January 26, 1915.

Rocky Mountain National Park was the ninth national park in the U.S. and the second in Colorado. Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado was established in 1906, protecting approximately 4,000 archaeological sites of the Ancestral Puebloan people, including the famous Cliff Palace.

What’s So Special About Rocky Mountain National Park?

As one of the highest national parks in the U.S., Rocky Mountain lies between 7,860 and 14,259 feet. Sixty mountain peaks are over 12,000 feet high. Because of the vast difference in elevation, the park is home to three distinct ecosystems: montane, subalpine, and alpine tundra.

Among these three ecosystems are a variety of wildlife. You’ll find elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, marmots, mountain lions, moose, pikas, eagles, hawks, falcons, and more.

The park protects three threatened species: the Canada lynx, the greenback cutthroat trout, and the Mexican spotted owl. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, Rocky Mountain National Park is your paradise.

The landscape of Rocky Mountain is stunning. Massive glaciers originally sculpted mountains, and you can still find smaller glaciers in the park’s higher altitudes. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness and includes 355 miles of hiking trails. Hiking, scenic drives, wildlife viewing, camping, and fishing are popular activities.

A beautiful lake in Rocky Mountain National Park with some snow still on the rocks surrounding it.

When you’re ready to visit Rocky Mountain, there’s no shortage of things to do. From horseback riding to fishing to ranger programming, you can fill your days with adventure and learning.

While narrowing down the activities is difficult, here are the top three we recommend.

1. Hike to Dream Lake

One of our favorite hikes is to Dream Lake. This 2.2-mile roundtrip hike starts at the Bear Lake Trailhead. You’ll pass Nymph Lake about a half-mile into the hike, and Dream Lake will appear after about a mile.

You can continue past Dream Lake to Emerald Lake if you want a longer hike. All of these lakes beautifully reflect the landscape of ponderosa pine and aspens. We suggest taking the park’s free shuttle as parking is limited, and the Bear Lake area is very popular.

Dream Lake inside Rocky Mountain National Park with ice chunks still on the water surface and mountains in the background.

2. Hike to Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls is another hot spot in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s about 1.2 miles roundtrip and starts at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

The scene is spectacular once you reach the waterfall as it thunders 30 feet into Glacier Creek. Like the hike to Dream Lake, if you want to extend this trail, you can continue to the Loch, Mills Lake, Lake Haiyaha, or Black Lake.

We also suggest taking the park’s free shuttle since the hike to Alberta Falls is one of the most popular trails in the entire park.

3. Drive the Trail Ridge Road

Stretching 48 miles between Estes Park on the park’s east side and Grand Lake on the west, Trail Ridge Road takes visitors into the sky. In fact, 11 miles are above the treeline as the elevation of the road reaches 12,183 feet.

The scenery will take your breath away as you enjoy awe-inspiring vistas, wildlife sightings, and alpine wildflowers. Trail Ridge Road is a nationally designated All-American Road.

A view of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park with lush green mountains and blue skies.

Visit This Hidden Gem in Rocky Mountain National Park

Although Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its hiking trails, breathtaking scenery, and abundant wildlife, don’t skip out on learning more about human history. Visit the Holzwarth historic site to catch a glimpse of Colorado homesteading.

This immigrant family from Germany began their home in Rocky Mountain National Park in 1917. Can you imagine what life was like during winter snow drifts without technology or modern vehicles? Step back in time as volunteers offer daily tours in the summer on the west side of the park.

Pro Tip: If you love spotting wildlife during your travels, here’s Your Quick Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park Wildlife!

Best Place for Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Standard sites within the national park are $30-35 per night. Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Timber Creek Campgrounds are available by reservation only and can be booked through Moraine Park Campground is closed until early June 2024 for a major rehabilitation project.

However, there are limitations for RVs at these campgrounds. Aspenglen and Timber Creek Campgrounds limit RVs to 30 feet, Glacier Basin Campground limits RVs to 35 feet, and Moraine Park Campground limits RVs to 40 feet.

If you’re looking for full hookups, you must stay outside the National Park. Paradise On the River is one mile from the south entrance; however, it has a 36-foot RV limit.

Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park KOA Holiday is another option, but it still limits rigs to 36 feet. Big rigs will have to stay farther away or at the Jellystone Park in Estes Park.

Is Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park Worth It?

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the country for a reason. In 2022, 4.3 million people were drawn to the alpine meadows, miles of hiking trails, and opportunities to view a moose or bighorn sheep.

It’s not big rig friendly, but we encourage you to find a place to camp farther away and make the drive into the national park. It will be worth it!

Don’t forget that Rocky Mountain National Park will require timed ticket reservations during peak season in 2024. There are two options: the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which includes the entire corridor and access to the rest of the park, and the rest of the park, excluding the Bear Lake Road Corridor.

You’ll need timed entry tickets beginning Friday, May 24, 2024. Visit to learn more and to purchase tickets.

If you haven’t yet visited this Colorado park, put it on your to-do list for 2024!

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