Nestled in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) stands as a testament to the enduring beauty of nature and the human commitment to its preservation. Established on January 26, 1915, the park has evolved over the past century into a symbol of environmental conservation, recreational exploration, and natural wonder. From the subalpine forests to the alpine tundra, the park is home to a rich tapestry of flora and fauna. It’s also a great playground for people of all ages (sorry, no pets allowed) with activities like hiking, trekking, rock climbing, camping, mountaineering, and wildlife viewing and photography.
Can You Drive Through Rocky Mountain National Park?
Yes, but driving within park limits requires a vehicle park pass which can easily be purchased seasonally or daily in person and online. RMNP offers high caliper accessibility and inclusivity throughout significant parts of the park via well-maintained roads and paths, including resources for wheelchairs and other ADA-friendly accommodations. While many visitors explore its vast trails and alpine meadows on foot, the scenic drive through the park provides an amazing experience full of majestic landscapes, particularly along the famed Trail Ridge Road.
Unlike some of the more challenging trails that require strenuous hikes, driving through the park enables people of all ages and physical conditions to partake in the scenic splendor. Families, seniors, and individuals with mobility challenges can all share in the joy of experiencing the high-altitude wonders from the comfort of a vehicle. As the road winds through the park’s diverse ecosystems, drivers are treated to sweeping vistas of towering peaks, lush valleys, and alpine meadows adorned with a vibrant tapestry of wildflowers. The awe-inspiring scenery creates a visual symphony that captivates the senses, punctuated by the snow-capped peaks of the Continental Divide.
The slower pace of a scenic drive increases the chances of encountering the park’s diverse wildlife from elk grazing in meadows to bighorn sheep scaling rocky outcrops, the opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat adds an element of excitement to the journey. Pullouts and overlooks offer safe vantage points for observing and photographing these wild inhabitants, enriching the driving experience. Stay aware of animal crossings and sudden tourist stops, as wildlife (and sometimes eager tourists) don’t always follow traffic rules.
What to Wear Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park?
RMNP beckons outdoor enthusiasts with its rugged trails, alpine meadows, and towering “14er” peaks. As hikers prepare to embark on an adventure through this iconic landscape, choosing the right attire is critical for both comfort and safety. It’s important to note that terrain varies wildly within RMNP, from its lowest points like Big Thompson River at 7,630ft (2,325 meters), to as high as 14,259ft (4,346 meters) above sea level at Longs Peak. With this variation comes significant impacts to regional climate, weather, terrain and recommended attire. Be prepared for drastic changes in weather with little notice.
Proper footwear is critical for any outdoor adventure and RMNP is no exception. The trails here can be rugged, uneven, and wonderfully unpredictable, demanding sturdy and supportive footwear. Hiking boots with ankle support are recommended to navigate rocky terrain and provide stability on uneven surfaces. Whatever style is worn, ensure your footwear is broken in to prevent discomfort and hike-ending blisters. Use moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry and reduce blister risk. Slips, trips and falls are a realistic hazard for any outdoor enthusiast, and having the right gear for your feet will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
The same characteristics that make RMNP so great, also make it challenging to prepare for. Huge changes in elevation drastically impact regional climates, including temperatures, wind and precipitation, and weather can turn on a dime. One of the greatest ways to prepare for these extreme changes is to pack wind-protecting and moisture-wicking layers. Additionally, the high-altitude environment exposes hikers to intense sunlight, so bring a hat, sunglasses, and appropriate skin protection.
Whether you want to explore the high peaks in RMNP, fish the clear streams for trout, hike to remote lakes or backpack deep into the park, our local professional guides can take you there! Give us a call at 720.242.9828 or contact us to learn more about our custom outdoor programs.