When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Rocky Mountain National Park offers a magnificent landscape of rugged mountains, snowy valleys and alpine tundra.
Too often overlooked by visitors, this park is the jewel in the crown of the American Rocky Mountains.
It is a true paradise for nature lovers and photographers.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Season: Open year-round, 24 hours a day.
Entry fee: $25/vehicle/day including occupants, or $15/person/7 days. Purchase the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 if you plan to visit more than 2-3 parks.
Peak season: Summer and fall, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Arrive early to avoid major parking problems.
Shuttle service inside the park? Yes (see box below).
TRAIL RIDGE ROAD
This scenic route is the highest continuous paved road in North America, cresting in the tundra at a maximum elevation of 3,713 metres. It is generally open from June to September, but may be closed at any time because of the weather. To better plan your visit, it is best to check the road's status before your arrival.
But, even if the road is closed, that doesn't mean that the park is too. This road offers breathtaking scenery at every turn. Here are the most spectacular viewpoints:
Many Parks Curve
Magnificent view of Moraine Park and Horseshoe Park meadows, two glacial valleys nestled at the foot of impressive mountains.
Forest Canyon Overlook
A short walk leads to a sweeping view of the stunning U-shaped Forest Canyon Valley. Notice the treeline where the evergreen forest meets the tundra.
Distance (round-trip): 1.8 km
Time (round-trip): 45 minutes
For a panoramic view of Rocky Mountain National Park, take this trail, which is ranked easy to intermediate because of its high altitude (1.8 km / 45 minutes), from Rock Cut overlook . It's a great way to stretch your legs with the family.
BEAR LAKE AREA
Welcome to a hiker's paradise! This section of the park is open year-round.
Here are two of the park's most beautiful trails:
Bear Lake trail
Distance (round-trip): About 1 km
Time (round-trip): 30 minutes
This easy 1-kilometre (30-minute) trail circles a high mountain lake and offers lovely views of the surrounding peaks.
Flattop Mountain trail
Distance (round-trip): 14 km
Time (round-trip): 5-6 hours
This 14-kilometre (5-6 hour) hike is more challenging, but the view is worth the effort. It leads to the top of Flattop Mountain (3,756 metres), whose summit offers breathtaking panoramas . Be prepared before you go, as it may be much colder at the top, and the weather can change quickly.
It is always a good idea to use the shuttle service in a national park as it not only saves time by avoiding traffic and parking problems, it reduces gas emissions in the park and allows visitors to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Rocky Mountain National Park operates three shuttle routes from mid-May to mid-October: Hiker Express Route, Bear Lake Route and Moraine Park Route.
Note that the Hiker Express Route shuttle leaves from Estes Park Visitor Center and only stops at the Park & Ride, unlike the others which stop at the main points of interest.
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
THE EGG OF ESTES ($-$$)
This is an Estes Park favourite! Open only for breakfast and lunch, but you're sure to find something on the menu for you to enjoy. Breakfast fare includes omelettes, waffles, pancakes, eggs benedict and more, all lovingly prepared. For lunch, you can choose between the soup of the day, delicious sandwiches and a variety of salads.
Open Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Tap House ($$)
Welcome to one of the most popular restaurants in Estes Park. Located close to Rocky Mountain National Park, it serves delicious grilled meats and ribs, salads, sandwiches and burgers, along with a variety of homemade sauces that may just be the best you've ever tasted! Quick service and kid's menu available.
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Twin Owls Steakhouse ($$$)
Located across from Lumpy Ridge Mountains, Twin Owls is the best spot for a tender, juicy steak. The menu offers an extensive selection of grilled specialties, from filet mignon to lobster tails. Reservations recommended.
Open daily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays in low season.
*** Hours may vary ***
- Very Favourable