Summer

Rocky Mountain National Park

Did you know Winter Park is only an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park?

Although Colorado is home to a few notable National Parks, RMNP is by far the top attraction. With beautiful vistas, unbelievable hiking trails, and easily spottable wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-see for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some of our tips for making a quick day trip to the area part of your Winter Park Resort vacation.

See the Park Like a Local

Although the Estes Park entrance to RMNP is more commonly known, the Grand Lake Entrance is often the quieter side of the park! If you’re looking to take a scenic drive on Trail Ridge Road, the famed highway to the sky, you’ll be able to enjoy traveling opposite the traffic flow, allowing more time to enjoy the change in altitude and the rapid change in environment as you move through evergreen forests to alpine tundra.

Plan Out an Itinerary

You should have an idea of what you want to do before visiting the park, as summer is one of the busiest times of the year. Here is the RMNP Plan Your Visit tool but we also have some suggestions (courtesy of the Winter Park Chamber)

First stop, Kawuneeche Visitor Center to get info on the park and have the kids ask questions about wildlife, the National Parks, etc! Then spend the morning on a short hike, like Coyote Valley Trail! This hike is a one-mile loop, that starts just 5 miles north of the Visitor Center.

If you’re looking for something a little longer, the Big Meadows Trail is a 3.6 mile loop just 2.5 miles north of the Grand Lake Entrance to the Park.

Start Your Day with a Full Stomach

Stop at Sharky’s to take breakfast on the road. We recommend ordering ahead, so you can just stop in and pick up so you can hop on the road and start your road trip. Also be sure to pack additional snacks and water. You’ll easily want to spend all day exploring, so be prepared. Stop by the new Winter Park Fireside Market and Eatery for some snacks or for picnic supplies!

Enjoy the Journey

Google Maps Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Park ResortThe drive is only about an hour and you’ll get to spend that time taking in the sights of the Continental Divide and even get to check out Grand Lake, the largest natural lake in Colorado!  And if the kid’s get restless, even with the beautiful sights and chances to spot wildlife, here are some of our ‘Lil Rippers activities that you can print for some entertainment on the ride.

Charge Your Phone or Bring a Camera

You’ll definitely want to capture the beauty of this park and the memories you’ll make exploring. Do remember though, that any animals you see are WILD. Don’t disturb them or get too close. Respect the nature that’s around you so everyone can enjoy it.

Our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park was the first where we actually had some luck seeing wildlife. Typically we just see the usual squirrels and small rodents (although I was charged by a javelina in Guadalupe Mountains National Park), but this trip was different. . We saw a lot of mule deer, tons of elk, and a moose! We were really hoping to see a moose, but we were told that moose typically stay on the Western side of the park which we could not get to because of road closures. . Then, on our farewell drive through the park, we spotted a big bull moose high on a hill, walking among some trees. We sat in the car watching him for a bit, and then he started to make his way toward the road and eventually crossed the road right in front of us. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good shot of him (maddening, because I had just watched a @brendanvanson video where he said to always have your wildlife setup ready as you’re driving through National Parks. Ugh!), but you can see some grainy iPhone shots in my story highlight from the trip. . So no moose. But here’s a young elk. Just relaxing in a partly snowy field. . #Nikon D7200 #WithMyTamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6

A post shared by Brandon Cozart (@brandoncozart) on

Check Road Conditions

We can sometimes get some crazy weather, especially if you are headed here early spring or late fall. Make sure to check conditions to be sure everything is good to go for your trip, and note that there is an entrance fee for the park.

Don’t Just Take Our Word For It

Check out a small sample of some of the wonder that awaits in Rocky Mountain National Park!

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