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Best Time To Visit Rocky Mountain National Park (for Gorgeous Scenery & Activities)

Find the perfect season for breathtaking views & fun activities in Rocky Mountain National Park. From June to September, enjoy warm weather & diverse attractions.

Tobi Miles
July 17, 2022
Best Time To Visit Rocky Mountain National Park (for Gorgeous Scenery & Activities)

Rocky Mountain National Park has become one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world. Its gorgeous scenery and thrilling structure make it a fantastic vacation spot. So when is the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is between June and September. During these months, temperature levels are usually around 70°F. The melted snow and pleasant weather allow you to explore the park's many attractions to the fullest. However, you can expect a lot of visitors from the summer to early Fall months.

Rocky Mountain National Park hosts many visitors every year. And there are various things to do irrespective of the months you choose to visit. Follow us as we provide a detailed breakdown of attractive spots and activities you can engage in during your National Park visit.

When Should You Not Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

The worst time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is from January to February. There are usually fewer activities and events during these winter months due to the extremely cold weather. Temperature levels often sit around 10 to 20 degrees F.

Although the park is less crowded during these months, the snow prevents visitors from exploring certain spots in the national park. Places like Trail Ridge Road, the main east-west thoroughfare, aren't usually accessible. The weather plays a major role in the events available at the park at any time of the year.

Because the National park is located at a high elevation, temperature levels tend to rise more at various seasons. Nonetheless, this is a great time for visitors to participate in skiing and snowshoeing. You can also enjoy the cool icy view of the trail heads and mountains.

What is the Cheapest Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

November to December are the cheapest times to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. There are great and affordable hotels to stay during this period. This low season offers a perfect opportunity to get the best deals on the top-notch lodging options available.

The Grand Lake and Estes Park have some of the best accommodations around the park. You can easily book a lodge for as low as $173 at a 3-star hotel room. Tourists get to take advantage of discount prices on various services as the park becomes crowd-free.

Also, entry tickets are more difficult to secure during the summer months. But these early winter months present a great opportunity to book entry tickets without hassle. You can enjoy affordable rides, flight tickets, and accommodation thanks to low crowd turnout.

Best Weather and Popular Activities in Rocky Mountain National Park: Monthly Breakdown

January: Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

January is undoubtedly the coldest month in the winter season. And the park's elevated area gets even colder during this period. The freezing temperatures during this month naturally deter many visitors from making the trip to the National park.

However, these weather conditions present the perfect period to pack your gear for skiing and snowshoeing. The high volume of snow on the magnificent mountains makes the spot suitable for some cross-country skiing. You can also try other winter activities like ice climbing, snow tubing, split boarding, and winter mountaineering.

Watch out for avalanches, as they are quite common during winter, especially in backcountry skiing. Professional guides also help you with your adventurous feats and winter activities. Rocky Mountain Lakes is also a great spot to go ice fishing.

  • Snowshoeing at Rocky Mountain trails
  • Sledding at Hidden valley
  • Cross-Country Skiing

February: Enjoy Fewer Crowds and Quiet Trails

February is a great time to enjoy quiet drives along the crowd-free and decongested roads. Although some parts of the parks aren't accessible during the winter, you still take a hike or drive through Trail Ridge Road. This trail, like some others, is typically less busy this month.

The timed entry permit allows you a scenic drive of up to 8 miles. The weather conditions will determine how far you can go. Nevertheless, this distance is enough for you to take in the beautiful atmosphere and enjoy some winter wildlife viewing.

Popular trails like the Bear Lake trail are usually less crowded during this time of the year. So, you can hike along the trail and other typically busy spots without seeing many people. But be sure to pick up a map to have a proper overview of the area and avoid getting lost.

  • Trail Ridge Road
  • Many Parks Curve
  • Bear Lake trail
  • Winter wildlife viewing

Related Read: 25 Best Colorado Springs Hiking Trails

March: Go Sledding in Hidden Valley Near Estes Park

As the winter period slowly ends, you can still visit RMNP in March for some winter fun. It is a great time to go sledding at Hidden Valley, a 10-mile drive from Estes Park. This proximity to a popular lodging area means you can enjoy this activity regularly.

Hidden Valley is a beautiful location, easy to find, and perfect for sledding. The hill is simply ideal for sledding as it is long and not so steep. A sled at the mountain shop costs about $5 for a day.

Hidden valley provides impressive facilities and restrooms for all ages. Sledding on this mountain is one winter activity you do not want to miss out on. It is quite fun and a wonderful family vacation plan.

  • Sledding at Hidden valley
  • Estes park
  • Snow tubing
  • Ski bikes at Winter Park resort

April: Wildlife Watching and a Visit to The Haunted Stanley Hotel

The spring season kicks off in April, one of the best months for wildlife viewing in RMNP. Spring is naturally the birthing season for the park's Elks, deers, and other mammals. So many tourists often look forward to catching a glimpse of this beautiful grazing wildlife.

Thousands of Elk, deers, and Moose go into hiding during the winter. However, the possibility of spotting these mammals and their offsprings is often high from spring until summer. Once the winter season is over,

Elks and mule Deers become more visible in the beaver meadows. Moose become conspicuous in willows west of the RMNP in Kawuneeche Valley. The park also has other creatures like mule deers, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bears, and many more.

There is also a late-night tour guide around the famous 100-year-old Stanley Hotel near Estes Lake. This features an exclusive 60-minute tour as you walk through dark areas of the hotel and storytelling by the tour guide.

  • Tour of the famous Stanley Hotel
  • Wildlife watching at Deer mountain
  • Upper beavers and Alpine meadows

May: Enjoy Guided Adventure Tours

There aren't usually many visitations in May, which means you get a chance to have exclusively guided adventure tours. This month is a suitable period to explore the many areas in RMNP just before the crowd begins to troop in.

The weather is pleasant and perfect for outdoor sightings. Temperature numbers begin to increase, usually between 54 to 65 degrees F. As the snow melts, the park comes alive with beautiful blooming flowers, sparkling streams, and a stunning landscape.

Wildflowers begin to blossom and beautify the environment with bright aesthetic colors. Rocky Mountain National park has a guided tour that takes visitors on tour exploring the gorgeous scenery and wildlife view. Since there are relatively few tourists this month, you will get a better crowd-free experience.

  • Wildflowers; Alpine Avens, Indian Paintbrush, and Forget-Me-Nots
  • Tundra Communities Trail

June: Experience Birth of New Offspring in Nature

June is usually the most anticipated month for many tourists looking to spend an exciting vacation at the park. The weather is always pleasant. It is also the perfect time to spot the park's mammals and their offspring.

Elk are some of the most commonly spotted wildlife animals in the park. And this period is usually a special time for the female species. After the birthing season in April, these mammals get to care for and nurture their offspring.

Seeing the elk with their young calves lying in the fields is a unique and lovely sight to behold. Large herds of elks are often spotted around the alpine areas in Kawuneeche Valley, Horseshoe Park, and Upper Beaver Meadows. Early mornings and evenings are the best time to get a good view of this mammal with its offspring.

  • Elk viewing in Kawuneeche Valley, Horseshoe Park, and Upper Beaver Meadows.

July: 4th of July Fireworks Over Grand Lake

July is a special month for the people of the US. It is also the busiest month at Rocky Mountain National Park as more visitors continue to arrive at the park for vacations. The weather condition is excellent, which gives room for many activities and celebrations.

The 4th of July celebrations, typically celebrated with fireworks, is also a date many anticipate. Firework celebrations at Rocky Mountain occur at the Grand Lake, a mile from the park's west entrance. The lake is close to most lodgings, allowing people to converge at the location easily.

Join other tourists on the Grand Lake and enjoy a close view of the amazing firework displays. This display lasts for about 30 minutes. After the show, celebrations continue at different venues featuring music, dancing, and drinks.

  • Fireworks at the Grand lake
  • Estes Park Jazz Fest
  • Scandinavian Midsummer festival

Related Read: 20 Best Romantic Getaways In Colorado

August: Fly Fishing and Whitewater Rafting

August in RMNP is a wonderful time to enjoy some summer activities. The weather is still usually very pleasant and ideal for many outdoor events. These are perfect conditions for fly fishing and whitewater rafting.

Head to Big Thompson River or The Loch for the best fly fishing experience. These are the perfect spots for stream fishing, thanks to the smooth water flow through the Moraine Valley. You can also participate in fly fishing contests held at various resorts in the park.

The park also has some great river spots suitable for whitewater rafting. The Poudre River's amazing torrents provide a thrilling rafting experience. Fly fishing and whitewater rafting in RMNP are exciting activities you should add to your bucket list.

  • Fly fishing at Big Thompson River
  • The Loch
  • Whitewater rafting at the Poudre River

September: Autumn Gold Festival

September is always bubbling with life and excitement as we enter Fall and Autumn. Rocky Mountain National Park annually holds the autumn Gold festival during this month. The event is one of Estes park's finest traditions to celebrate the new season.

Rocky Mountain marks the occasion in the Estes Valley area with a freshly grilled brat, a couple of beers, and wines. It also features some popular live band performances to match the exotic celebrations. In addition, you get to participate in other fun events like raffle draws and classic car shows.

The winner of these events also gets a trophy and some cash prizes worth up to $10,000. There are also games and fun activities for kids, such as race car Legos, face painting, and lawn games. The entry fee for this event is free.

  • Classic Car show
  • Estes Park festivities
  • Raffle draws containing scholarship rewards

October: Scenic Drives and Bicycling

October is a fantastic time to explore the trails and beautiful scenery just before the winter season arrives. The weather is usually mild, and temperature numbers begin to drop—48 to 61 degrees F. Nonetheless, this weather condition is still suitable for scenic drives and bicycling along Trail Ridge Road.

Take a local scenic drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake on the Trail Ridge. Note that Trail Ridge Road closes for the rest of the year at the end of October. Places like the North inlet Trail are nice crowd-free locations to cycle along.

  • Bicycling through the Trail Ridge Road
  • Scenic drives from Estes Park to Grand Lake

November: Scenic Hike Through Cascade Falls and Sky Pond

Credit: Patricia Henschen / Flickr

As we welcome the winter season in November, the park becomes more scanty and crowd-free. The weather gradually becomes cold with a temperature of 20 to 36 degrees F. These conditions are fantastic for hiking trails like Cascade Falls, Lake of Glass, and Sky Pond.

These trails offer spectacular viewing of the mountains. Hiking along Sky Pond requires a parking permit valid for a limited period.

The trails are easy to understand thanks to the markings, which serve as a guide.

You must note that the rocks can be slippery and steep when approaching downhill. So pack your hiking gear and solid footwear and explore this gorgeous scenery. Stick to hiking trails within your fitness level for an enjoyable experience.

  • Cascade Falls
  • Lake of Glass
  • Sky Pond

December: Experience the Holiday Season in Estes Park

The spirit of holiday and festivities are at its peak in the month of December. There are significantly fewer visitations compared to the summer months. It is the best time to share the holiday experience on the east side of Rocky Mountain(Estes Park) with family and friends.

The many hiking trails in the park are open and accessible for various activities. Experience the thrill of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Estes Park and Grand Lake. These entrances have guided tours for people looking to get into these winter sports for the first time.

Rocky Mountain National Park also offers wildland trekking spots in Estes Valley. Guided snowshoeing tours to Black Lake and Emerald Lake are available to Estes park lodgers. Enjoy an incredible winter day hiking adventure along the alpine meadows, mountain peaks, and waterfalls.

Watch out for an elk or mule deer, as you may be lucky enough to spot one. Several holiday events take place this month in Estes Park to celebrate the Christmas season. Enjoy a nice breakfast with Santa, holiday light tours, a Christmas dinner at Estes park's exquisite hotels, and many more.

  • Santa at Castle Mountain Lodge on Christmas Eve
  • Hikes in Estes Valley
  • Wildland trekking across Black Lake and Emerald Lake
  • Ice climbing within the borders of Estes park

Best Time for Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park to Avoid Crowds

If you're looking to avoid crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park, the best time to visit is from November to April. The park is usually crowded in summer and fall, with visitation increasing yearly. However, visitation numbers drop significantly during these winter months.

With the weather falling to freezing points and lots of snow, Rocky Mountain National Park has become a cool crowd-free area. Although there aren't many events in the park during this period, you enjoy some winter activities. Experience the thrill of backcountry skiing and snowshoeing in decongested mountain areas.

Maximize this opportunity to hike along Trail Ridge Road and other fascinating park trails. But if you prefer to visit during the summertime, it would be best if you started your exploration early in the morning. Hike as early as 6 am or 7 am along the park's west side to enjoy the benefits of fewer people.

Related Read: 11 Best Places for Snowtubing in Colorado

How Many Days Should You Spend at Rocky Mountain National Park?

If you want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, you should plan a three- or five-day trip. This gives you sufficient time to explore the park's amazing scenery and engage in some activities.

But, if you're an outdoor enthusiast, you should consider spending at least one week at Rocky Mountain National Park. The elevation of these mountains requires some getting used to, especially when hiking. So, spending a few days more should give you enough time to enjoy hiking through the park's trail.

What is The Best Route Through The Rocky Mountain National Park for Scenery?

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most popular and best trails through the Rocky Mountain National Park. A scenic drive along the trail gives you an excellent view of the park's scenery.

Drive through this trail to explore other fascinating viewings like Bear lake, Alberta Falls and Sprague Lake. The route also connects to the park's west side (Estes Park). Here you can make reservations for your lodging and explore many other gorgeous views.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Rocky Mountain National Park With Family?

Summer and winter are the best times to visit Rocky Mountain National Park with family. There are so many enjoyable events during this period, including some kid-friendly spots and activities.

You can go horseback riding at Estes park, take a family Hike along Alberta Falls and even go camping! Exploring these activities depend on the time of the year you choose to go. There's also a family ranger program in the summer, which features art, games, hikes, and projects.

What Is The Best Time of Day to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

The best time of the day to visit Rocky Mountain National is the early hours in the morning, between 7 and 10 am. Most trails are accessible during this time, so you can hike along many park trails.

The park is usually open throughout the day. Take advantage of this and start your exploration early. Early mornings allow you to explore the breathtaking scenery while taking pictures of beautiful sunrises and nature wildlife with fewer people around.

Related Read: Best Time to Visit Aspen, CO

When is The Best Time For Driving Trail Ridge Road?

The best time to take scenic drives through Trail Ridge Road would be early mornings, especially during fall and winter. There are fewer visitations during this time of the year, meaning you can drive around at your own pace.

Summer is usually the busiest time in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, you can avoid the congested road by starting your scenic drive early in the morning. Get your RVs, tour buses, and vehicles ready by 9 or 10 am to enjoy the view before the road gets busy.

Trail Ridge Road, which links Estes Park and Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, takes at least 120 minutes of driving to finish. The estimated travel time is based on the road's full distance of 48 paved miles.

Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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