There are only a few national parks that seem to sum up the American West in all its wildness, and this is definitely one of them. Rocky Mountain National Park has long been a favorite, and it's easy to see why. With over 300 miles of hiking trails, abundant wildlife and scenic roads winding through spectacular snow-covered mountains, everyone will find something to love.
Rocky Mountain National Park is so massive at 415 square miles that it can be a bit hard to sum up. It's a good park to come to with a vehicle, as there are some great driving options. Definitely bring along your backpacking kit, though, to really experience the wilder side. Check out this list of things to do inside the park, from horse riding to fishing and camping.
Stop in at one of the Visitor Center locations and grab yourself a map to highlight points of interest. Trail Ridge Road is one of the main attractions, and the world's highest continuous paved highway at 12,183 feet at its zenith. Another good route is Old Fall River Road, one-way (up) and closed in the winter.
With so many great hikes, it's hard to choose. By popularity, hit up the short Bear Lake Trail, or the more challenging Longs Peak Trail and Glacier Gorge Trail (keep in mind the parking lots fill up during the busier season). There are also dozens of less popular yet beautiful trails — just take a look below in our 'popular hikes' section.
Estes Park, the nearby town on the eastern edge, is a great place to head for lunch post-hike. Though there are no lodges inside the National Park itself, there are five designated campgrounds, and Estes Park has many options as well. Check out this list of places to sleep. Reservations are highly recommended.
When to Go
Rocky Mountain National Park is open year-round, weather permitting. Summer and fall are the busiest, and parking lots fill up. Arrive early or come late! Consider taking the free shuttle, which runs during the warmer months. Fall is a great time to see the Aspen trees in all their golden glory. Don't forget to check the weather and road status, especially in the winter.
Entrance fees apply, and can be purchased upon arrival. Get details, here. See this link for backcountry permits.
Pets are prohibited on all trails, tundras and meadows. Dogs on a leash no longer than 6 feet are permitted in established campgrounds and on roads, parking lots and picnic areas. Get the full scoop, here.