15 Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the country. The park offers so many wonderful things to do, you’ll never be bored! If you’re looking for a great camping or fishing trip, Rocky Mountain National Park has what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for a place to camp and enjoy nature, then Rocky Mountain National Park should be on your bucket list. With over 350 miles of trails and more than 1,000 miles of streams, there’s no shortage of places to explore.

If camping isn’t your thing but you still want to enjoy nature then there are plenty of other things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park. You can hike any number of trails or just sit back and relax while taking in the scenery. Or if fishing is more your style then there are plenty of opportunities to catch trout or other fish species right off the shoreline!

Drive Trail Ridge Road

Dariusz Kowalczyk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is a must-do for everyone, especially those who are new to the park. It is a high-elevation drive that offers stunning views of the Continental Divide and Mount Meeker.

Trail Ridge Road is open from July through September, depending on the weather. The road may be closed in winter due to snowfall and ice conditions.

Parking is available at several trailheads along this scenic route (including Bear Lake Trailhead, Forest Canyon Trailhead, and Taft Point Trailhead). You can also park at Twin Sisters Overlook for free if you don’t mind walking down a steep paved path to get there.

Hike Trail Ridge Road

person in red top waling beside mountain

Trail Ridge Road is considered a moderate hike, and it’s about 10 miles one way. The trailhead is near the Alpine Visitor Center, which you can access by taking Bear Lake Road north out of Estes Park for about 2 miles.

To reach the trailhead from Estes Park, take Highway 36 west for about 14 miles to Grand Lake Village and turn left onto Bear Lake Road. After driving 2 miles on Bear Lake Road, look for Trail Ridge Road on your left. You’ll see signs directing you where to go from there!

The recommended gear includes hiking boots or sneakers with good tread; water; sunscreen; sunglasses; bug spray (optional); camera (also optional).

Pets are allowed on this trail but must be leashed at all times. Dogs are not allowed in buildings or campgrounds within Rocky Mountain National Park, but there are dog parks outside of park boundaries where pups can socialize freely with other dogs! People with kids might want to consider having them sit in a backpack carrier instead of carrying them because those little legs can get tired quickly during longer hikes like this one!

Many sites on Trail Ridge Road (which runs through both Estes Park and Grand Lake) are available only during specific seasons due to snowfall levels. These include spots like Horseshoe Park, Mica Basin Campground (which has limited sites), Glacier Basin Campground (with tent-only options), and Grand Lake Meadows Campground (where reservations are required).

Gaze at the Milky Way from the Dark Sky Festival

milky way on mountains

Stargazing is not possible in most places due to light pollution. But RMNP is one of the best places in the world to view the night sky, thanks to its minimal lighting and lack of light pollution. Each August, Rocky Mountain National Park holds a Dark Sky Festival as part of an effort to preserve natural darkness for future generations. Activities include astronomy talks, night photography sessions with experts on hand for tips, and telescope demonstrations for all ages.

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Go camping

person sitting near bonfire surrounded by trees

Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to camp. In fact, it’s the only national park in the U.S. where camping is permitted within most of its boundaries. And while you may already be familiar with some of Rocky Mountain’s premier campsites—like Moraine Park and Bear Lake—you might not have considered all that lies beyond these popular locations when it comes to finding your own slice of paradise among the high peaks and aspen groves.

If you’re looking for a place to pitch a tent or set up camp, there are plenty of options throughout Rocky Mountain National Park that offer beautiful views and easy access for hikers who want to explore without having their footfalls hampered by heavy packs full of supplies (or worse: no supplies at all). For example:

Moraine Park offers sites near the Bear Lake area; Longs Peak Ranger Station is another good choice because there’s an easy walk nearby called The Sky Pond Loop Trail; while Kawuneeche Valley has several spots including Sprague Lake which offers interpretive tours on Friday nights during summer months.* If you’re interested in hiking but don’t want too much hassle setting up camp each night then Lulu City/Dry Gulch loop trail might be perfect for you!

Attend the Wapiti Music Festival

woman playing violin

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend your summer, check out the Wapiti Music Festival! This is an annual event that brings together musicians from all over the country, and it’s held in Estes Park, Colorado.

This is a great place to go if you’re looking for music and fun, as it’s an annual event that takes place in July in Estes Park, Colorado. There are two stages open for bands to perform on, as well as other activities such as yoga classes, food trucks, and more! You’ll find live performances from artists such as Ryan Adams and David Gray at this festival—and with so many different options for entertainment, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience!

Check out Moraine Park Museum and Amphitheater

While you’re in the area, visit the Moraine Park Museum and Amphitheater. The museum is home to interactive exhibits on geology, wildlife, and plants that you can explore during your visit.

If you go between mid-June and September (or if you just get lucky), you can also catch an amphitheater show at the museum. Rangers from Rocky Mountain National Park will be presenting talks on a variety of topics throughout their season, including nature photography and bird watching.

If you want to pick up some souvenirs for yourself or others back home (and who doesn’t?), there’s also a gift shop attached to the museum with books, toys, and related memorabilia available for purchase!

Explore the Alpine Visitor Center

Thomson M, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Alpine Visitor Center is a great place to begin your visit because it’s the only visitor center in the park that you can drive to. And while it might be hard to believe, this scenic spot was once home to an actual mining operation. The mine was abandoned in 1910 (about 25 years after Colorado became a state).

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The former mine site is now a peaceful and beautiful natural area where you can look out over an alpine lake and enjoy spectacular views of Longs Peak. You can also take an educational tour through the visitor center or stop by for one of their periodic ranger-led hikes through nearby trails.

If you’re feeling adventurous, make sure you check out some of the other activities listed below!

Go skiing in winter

man ice skiing on hill

Skiing is a great way to stay fit in the winter, and it’s not just for adults. Taking your kids snowboarding or skiing is a fun way to spend time together and work on their balance, coordination, and strength. Plus, the views from the top of some of RMNP’s peaks are spectacular!

The terrain at RMNP is varied enough to challenge all levels of skiers and boarders alike: from beginner runs down gentle slopes perfect for families with children learning how to ski or board; to more challenging runs that will push you further than you’ve ever gone before. And since there are no lifts needed here (it’s an uphill trek), you’ll get an extra workout while enjoying some fresh air!

And don’t worry about getting cold—the snow here is light and dry which means even if temperatures drop below freezing during your visit (and they often do), there won’t be any ice underfoot!

Hike your heart out

person in black jacket and black pants standing on rocky mountain during daytime

Hiking is one of the best ways to get your heart rate up and burn calories. Rocky Mountain National Park has over 300 miles of hiking trails, so you can find a trail that suits your needs. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or an intense workout, RMNP has it all!

For those who like to walk at a leisurely pace, there are plenty of easy trails available. The Colorado River Trail is one such option; this 4-mile hike follows the banks of the Colorado River through thick forests and grassy meadows as it winds its way along various waterfalls. Another popular easy trail is Wild Basin Nature Trail, which has two lovely lookouts: Hallett Peak Lookout and Wild Basin Overlook, both offering spectacular views of Longs Peak (the highest mountain in the park).

Visit Bear Lake

bear lake colorado

Bear Lake is a popular stop for picnickers, anglers, and those looking to add another Stargazer Trail destination to their list. The trailhead for the easy 2-mile hike around the lake is less than a mile from the parking lot. The lake itself may be small but it’s stocked with trout and frequented by birds—including eagles and ospreys. On clear days you can see Longs Peak in the distance from Bear Lake; on cloudy days you might see some spectacular thunderstorms roll over Estes Park or even catch sight of black bears!

After completing your hike around Bear Lake or Kid’s Fishing Derby (held here most Saturdays), reward yourself with lunch at one of two restaurants: Bear Grill Cafe or Alpine Inn Cafe. Both offer great views of Longs Peak as well as classic American fare including burgers, sandwiches, salads, and pizza in an outdoor atmosphere that feels very much like Colorado’s mountainside communities themselves.

Take a scenic drive on Old Fall River Road

Old Fall River Road is a narrow, switchback-laden road that follows the river of the same name through a beautiful valley. The road itself is closed in the winter, but it can be accessed via hiking trails in some areas. Check online before you go to ensure that you’ll be able to drive on it safely.

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If you’re driving from Estes Park along Trail Ridge Road and want to take Old Fall River Road, get off at Grand Lake Junction and turn onto Bear Lake Road (US 34). Follow this for about 31 miles until you reach its end at Kawuneeche Visitor Center. From there, it’s about 10 miles down US 34 or 3 miles along Trail Ridge Road to reach the trailheads for accessing Old Fall River Road itself.

The journey takes about an hour and 15 minutes each way—35 minutes longer than going via US 36/34 since there are fewer spots where vehicles can pull over for gas or bathroom breaks along this route compared with other options available within Rocky Mountain National Park boundaries—but it’s worth every minute spent getting there!

Browse the shops of Estes Park

Estes Park
Photo by profnohair

If you’re looking for souvenir ideas, Estes Park has plenty of shops to choose from. You can find some great gifts for the people back home (like this adorable little stuffed bear), or find a nice outfit to go out to dinner in. If you’re looking for books and outdoor gear, or art and crafts from local artists? Estes Park has them all!

Lastly: coffee shops. Estes Park is known for being an outdoorsy kind of town, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t like our caffeine too! Check out Jitterbug Coffee Co., which serves up delicious drinks made with locally sourced ingredients.

Go fishing

person holding silver and black stick near lake during daytime

Fishing is popular in Rocky Mountain National Park and it’s easy to see why: the park has over 350 miles of rivers and streams, more than 150 lakes and reservoirs, and plenty of fish to catch. Fishing licenses are required for angling in the park, but they’re free! No matter your skill level or fishing preferences, you can find an area that fits your needs. The park also has a catch-and-release policy; so don’t worry about bringing home dinner.

If you’ve never been fishing before or simply want to brush up on your skills before hitting the streams, there are several instructional programs available at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Estes Park from June through September (open daily). Visitors can go on guided tours with local professional guides who know all about where to go in order to reel in their next meal!

Of course, if fly fishing is more your style then no worries—the park offers rafting trips down its rivers for those who would prefer not to have any contact with their prey once caught

See Longs Peak in person

ProfPete at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ll be able to see Longs Peak from many places in Rocky Mountain National Park, but if you want a closer look and better understanding of this Colorado 14er, consider hiking the Lefthand Canyon Trail. This hike is not for beginners because it takes about three hours and has steep sections (but it’s still doable).

The trailhead is located near Allenspark and the best time to visit is before winter hits. Although the weather can be unpredictable at any time of year, this area sees more snow than other parts of RMNP during wintertime—so keep that in mind when planning your trip!

We recommend that you bring a backpack with plenty of water, sunscreen, and bug repellent just in case. And remember: Don’t try this hike alone or without proper equipment like sturdy boots!