Rocky Mountain National Park contains vast wilderness lands within it’s borders. Very little of the park is accessible via paved roads, and for this reason most of the park is managed wilderness.
Rocky Mountain National Park contains diverse climate zones due to the large elevation differences that exist in the park. With peaks towering above fourteen thousand feet in elevation, Rocky Mountain National Park has the highest average elevation of the parks in the National Park system.
The park consists of glacial valleys carved in the last Ice Age, ringed with snow capped mountains with names like Longs Peak, Chiefs Head Peak, and Mt Richthofen. Trail Ridge Road, one of the highest roads in North America, traverses the park from east to west with numerous scenic turn-offs for visitors to pause at and enjoy the scenery. The Colorado River’s headwaters are located in the park. Visitors to the west side of the park will find the Colorado River as it begins its long journey west.
Access the park from the west by way of Granby, and from the east via Estes Park. Most visitors from Denver will find it easiest to drive north on Hwy 36 and enter the park from the east side passing through the tourist town of Estes Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park is frequently visited by out of state tourists unaware of the dangers of the alpine environment. The high altitude of the park brings it’s own set of challenges. At this altitude in the spring and summer, frequent thunderstorms can bring a rapid drop in temperature along with heavy rain and often times snow. Always bring a rain jacket and be on the constant lookout for storm clouds. In the winter temperatures can drop below zero and deep snow can be encountered on most trails. See our Backpacking Guide for more information about the Colorado weather.
Download the following Rocky Mountain National Park map to plan your hikes.
Bear Lake – Entering the park from the east entrance, the road to Bear Lake is the first road on the left. Bear Lake parking lot is the last stop on the road. Use this road to access the Glacier Gorge hike as well. Bear Lake is an easy hike around an alpine lake surrounded by the high rocky cliffs and peaks of the Rocky Mountains.