Day Trips in Rocky Mountain National Park
Explore Rocky Mountain National Park for the enjoyment of nature. In our busy world this remains a place to uplift the soul and delight the senses. Immerse yourself in the scent of mountain wildflowers; see the mountain peaks glow pink as the sun sets in the west. Listen to birds sing and coyotes howl. Take a trip into the park and find a gurgling brook or a dew moistened spider web.
These day trips are just the tip of the proverbial glacier whose erosion formed these spectacular mountains and valleys but for our visitors they are a once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten.
Bear Lake 2-4 Hours
You can approach Bear Lake in RMNP from Highway 34 through The Fall River Entrance or from Hwy 36, The Beaver Meadow Entrance. After getting on the Bear Lake Road you will wind around until you reach the Moraine Park area, which looks like a big meadow. On the hillside to the east is The Moraine Park Museum. The museum building was at one time part of the former Moraine Lodge of 1910. The museum’s displays emphasize natural science and the geology of the area.
Continue to drive along the road until you reach the Bear Lake parking area. During the summer you may have to take the shuttle to the Bear Lake parking lot. It is a short walk to Bear Lake. This area is the premier starting point for many popular hikes in the park. You can snowshoe here in the winter. This is a beautiful clear lake with Hallet’s Peak in the background and is an easy walk around as it is a handicapped trail. The lake has been a success story in the propagation of the native Greenback Trout, which at one time was an endangered fish species.
Horseshoe Park/Estes Park Loop 4-6 hrs
This 16-mile (27 km) loop takes you west on U.S. Highway 34 through the Fall River Entrance. At Deer Ridge Junction head east on Highway 36 through the Beaver Meadows Entrance. Then exit the National Park and wind up in Estes Park. The views of the Front Range and Mummy Range are spectacular.
Fall River Road 3 hrs
A windy, one way dirt road meets Trail Ridge Road at the Alpine Visitors Center at the top. Only open a few months of the year, this drive is the most pristine and unspoiled in the park. Take advantage of the many pullouts to soak in the tranquil mountain vistas.
Trail Ridge Road 4-6 hrs
The definitive scenic drive in Rocky Mountain National Park-perhaps in all of Colorado. Experience the top of the world, the summit of the Rockies, on the highest continuous paved highway in the United States which travels through the heart of the national park from Estes Park to Grand Lake. Here visitors can access the fragile beauty of the Alpine Tundra that comprises a full third of the park’s 415 square miles. Climbing from Park Headquarters Visitor Center (7,840 feet above sea level) to more than 12,000 feet, this route is open from Memorial Day until late fall when heavy snowfall closes the road. With 10 miles of road above tree line – a great vantage point to admire some of the park’s most spectacular, two-billion-year-old metamorphic rock formations, such as Longs and Hallett Peaks.
The name Trail Ridge recognizes the Ute Indians whose “trail” along the tundra’s “ridge” is the path of the current road. Arapahoe and Ute Indians walked this and many other trails in the park as they journeyed to lower elevations in search of buffalo and other food sources. Because the tundra heals so slowly, the ancient paths they took can still be seen along this highway.