Mountain Fun for Everyone

Located outside of beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, this national park is a mountain paradise.  Hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world come every year to visit alpine lakes, observe rare wildlife, and climb peaks over 14,000 feet above sea level.  Rocky Mountain National Park, established in 1920, offers car and backcountry camping, hundreds of miles of hikes, and gorgeous vistas visible from easily accessible roads.  Truly, this gem of a national park offers something for everyone. 

Popular Destinations

Although it contains over 350 miles of trails and 150 lakes, only a few spots bear the burden of heavy tourist traffic.  Their popularity is certainly warranted as these vacation destinations are among the most beautiful sights in the United States.  Probably the most visited area in the park is Bear Lake.  The lake has become so popular that the National Park Service has set up a busing system just to cart people to the lake.   The bus drops tourists off just a few short feet away from this majestic mountain lake.  At Bear Lake, 12,000 foot Hallet Peak seemingly rises out of the middle of no where and provides for breathtaking photo opportunities. 

Rocky Mountain WaterfallsCredit: Garrett Adrian PhotoFor the tourists who do not want to get out of their car, Trail Ridge Road is the place to go.  This road rises over 12,000 feet above sea level and offers wide open views of the Mummy Range and Longs Peak.  This road was originally constructed in the 1920s but has undergone many changes in recent years to accommodate the heavy car traffic it sees every summer.

Hikers both young and old will find a paradise in Rocky Mountain National Park as trails range from an easy stroll to a technical climb.  One of the easiest and most often made hikes is to Alberta Falls just a short hike away from Bear Lake.  Alberta Falls can be seen by hiking less than a mile and is best seen in the springtime when winter runoff is at its peak.  Of interest to more seasoned hikers is the 14,255 foot behemoth Longs Peak.  While the hike is not technical, it is only accessible to hikers for a few months every year.  The top of this mountain sees tens of thousands of hikers every year but turns away a great deal of peak baggers who cannot handle the fourteen total mile hike and the high elevations.  Hiking up Longs Peak is not for the faint of heart or unfit as it has claimed many lives since it rise in popularity in the 1920s.

How to Get Away From the Tourists

As popular as this Rocky Mountain National Park is, it can be relatively easy to get away from the crowds in the middle of the summer.   To do this, stay away from the places mentioned above or hike deep into the backcountry.  If you are on the east side of the park, make a journey into the Wild Basin area.  It is only accessible by narrow dirt roads but many great hikes originate from this more out of the way area.  If you are looking for a shorter hike, take a quick trip to the Calypso Cascades.  If you want something that will take the better park of the day, you can hike almost seven miles one way to Thunder Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the park. 

Wild Basin will still get a good amount of visitors since it is closest to the city centers like Fort Collins and Boulder that are easily accessible from the east.  If you really want to get away from the crowds, travel to the west side of the park.  Again, hiking trails abound and majestic vistas are all around.  For the peak baggers, try out a peak in the Never Summer Range, while the novices can take a hike to Granite Falls. 


Lake NanitaCredit: Garrett Adrian Photo

Regardless of where you go in Rocky Mountain National Park, you will find something picturesque.  You will find diverse ecosystems, rugged terrain, and gushing rivers.  There is something for everyone in this historic national park.  Before you go, prioritize what you want to see, but also know your limits and be prepared for weather of all conditions.  If you take the proper preparations and precautions, you will not soon forget your trip to this beautiful national park. 

Read these other essential articles for your Colorado Vacation:

Calypso Cascades in Rocky Mountain National Park

on the Wild Basin Trail

Rocky Mountain WaterfallsCredit: Garrett Adrian PhotoCredit: Garrett Adrian Photo

Lake Nanita

One of the most breathtaking and remote lakes in the park

Lake NanitaCredit: Garrett Adrian PhotoCredit: Garrett Adrian Photo