John Denver wasn’t kidding when he sang Rocky Mountain High. This National Park boasts the highest continuous highway in the United States, as well as the highest Visitor Center in the country as well. While traveling along a road that takes you over 12,000 feet above sea level, it is easy to feel on top of the world. Visiting the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park is truly an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
I’m from Utah and am used to being in the mountains, so I always wondered what this Park was all about. What I found is an incredible collection of some of the tallest and most majestic peaks in the country embellished with sparkling lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. Within the first hour of being in Rocky Mountain National Park, we had seen more wildlife than we saw on our four-day backpacking trip along the Teton Crest Trail. But what I came to love most about the Park is the fragile tundra wilderness that it protects and celebrates. It’s not very often that you can drive to the high elevation tundra. What a gorgeous and unique adventure it is to explore such an incredibly peculiar mountain environment!
This list only scratches the surface of things to see and do in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you’re a hiker like me, it will take you a long time to run out of hiking trails in this Park. Bring it on!
What You Need to Know
Nearly every article I read before leaving on our trip warned of the thunderstorms that commonly hit the Park in the afternoons, but I honestly did not think much about it. I frequently hike in the mountains and know the risks of afternoon hiking in the summertime. The storms in Rocky Mountain are a completely different beast! Because of the elevation in the Park, PLEASE take this warning seriously. The weather can change in an instant, and the last thing you want is to be up at 12,000 feet with lightning and thunder surrounding you. Plan your day so that the hikes with the most risk of exposure during a thunderstorm get done in the morning hours.
Learn the warning signs of altitude sickness! If you start experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or fatigue you may need to get to a lower elevation. Be sure to drink plenty of water and take your time as you hike in Rocky Mountain National Park to allow your body to acclimatize to the high elevation.
Are you looking for a great place to stay? We love the historic River Forks Inn! Nestled in a gorgeous canyon just outside of Estes Park, this charming Bed and Breakfast is the perfect place to call home during your Rocky Mountain vacation!
Rocky Mountain National Park is located about an hour and a half northwest of Denver, Colorado.
From Denver, take I-25 north for 31.5 miles and then take exit 243 onto CO-66 west. Travel 14 miles until Highway 66 turns into Highway 36 and heads west for another 22 miles to reach Estes Park.