Budget traveling around the world for two years

Rocky Mountain National Park


  • Get up close and personal with stunning mountains, alpine lakes, and rivers
  • 1/3 of the park is alpine tundra (above treeline)
  • Trail Ridge Road is the highest paved road in a U.S. national park and one of the most beautiful

When To Visit: June-October, as most roads and trails are inaccessible in winter

Climate: Very varied, generally warm in summer, cool in spring & fall, and cold with lots of snow in winter.

Location: Northern Colorado 2 hours northwest of Denver

One of the most visited parks in the country, Rocky Mountain National Park is a mountain wonderland with 300 miles of hiking trails and plenty of scenic spots that are accessible via car. And it’s extremely high elevation – if you drive up the park’s historic Trail Ridge Road, you will probably feel like you are on top of the world.

Photo: Fern Lake

What To See & Do in Rocky Mountain NP

Trail Ridge Road near Alpine Visitor Center

If Trail Ridge Road is open, a drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake is a must – you will pass extraordinary mountain views, lakes, and probably even wildlife. Try to also get off the road and take advantage of the countless hiking opportunities.

Rocky Mountain NP Hikes

Black Lake Trail

Here are my top picks for Rocky Mountain National Park hikes – click below for detailed trail information.

East Side (Moraine Park/Bear Lake Area)

  1. Fern Lake & Cub Lake Trail
  2. Black Lake Trail
Fern Lake

West Side (Grand Lake Area)

  1. Cascade Falls Trail
    • 6.8 miles round trip, out & back, easy to moderately strenuous, 430 foot elevation gain
    • A riverside hike that ends at a tall waterfall
    • Excellent area to spot wildlife – including moose, elk, and bears
  2. East Inlet Trail to Adams Falls
    • 4 miles round trip, out & back, easy, 400 foot elevation gain
    • Take an easy 1 mile out & back hike to Adams Falls or do the full 4 mile hike for an incredible view of an expansive meadow and mountain peaks (you’ll know it when you see it)
East Inlet Trail

Where To Stay & Eat in Rocky Mountain NP

Sunset at Moraine Park Campground

The Trail Ridge Store at the Alpine Visitor Center hosts the only restaurant in the park. There are many more food options in the cities of Estes Park and Grand Lake just outside the park.

The park has several picnic areas if you would like to bring food into the park.

There is no lodging in the park, but the cities of Estes Park (just outside the east park entrance) and Grand Lake (just outside the west entrance) have ample options.

There are several campgrounds in the park – some of which are reservable and others first-come, first-served. Click here for more information.

Nearby Side Trips from Rocky Mountain NP

CU Boulder Campus

Peak to Peak National Scenic Byway – Take Highway 7 south and then Highway 72 south from Estes Park to Nederland to pass some of Colorado’s most epic mountain peaks. There are many hikes along the way – the best of which are Blue Lake Trail and Lost Lake Trail.

Boulder: A haven for hippies in the 60s and 70s and far-left environmentalist folks today, Boulder is a utopic city 1 hour south with some of the country’s most progressive laws, miles upon miles of public walking and biking paths, and a vibrant downtown pedestrian mall. Read more.

Denver: A nature lover’s paradise, this city 2 hours south offers 4,000 acres of parkland, incredibly well-preserved turn-of-the-century homes, and some of the best breweries in the country. Read more.

Fort Collins – An hour northeast of the park, this progressive college town and 4th largest city in Colorado has a beautiful downtown bustling with local shops, eateries, and plazas.


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