Let’s go for an altitude getaway to Rocky Mountain National Park ! This park is part of the Chain of the Rockies which extends from northern Mexico to Canada crossing the United States and in particular Colorado . The latter is not a state much visited by European tourists who often prefer to go to Arizona , California or Utah . However, it is very popular with Americans who like to ski in the winter and hike in the summer. Incidentally, it is the fourth most-visited national park in the United States behind Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon , and Zion .
The scenic beauty of Colorado took my breath away during my week-long road trip and I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Rocky Mountain. It is a particularly green and wild territory . In addition to the mountainous landscapes, I was amazed to see so many wild animals in their natural environment in such a short time.
To discover this splendid environment, you need a minimum of organization . In this article, I will guide you to discover the park through:
the stunning mountain views from Trail Ridge Road , the road that crosses the park from east to west.
To prepare you as well as possible, I also give you my advice, particularly on the time of visit , the climate and camping on site.
1. Why should you visit Rocky Mountain?
One of the main characteristics of Rocky Mountain is its altitude ; although not equaling the summits of Alaska, those of Rocky Mountain are nevertheless among the highest in the United States. In addition, the park’s main road – Trail Ridge Road – rises to over 3700 meters above sea level . For comparison, the Pic du Canigou in the Pyrénées-Orientales is at an altitude of 2785 meters and 4809 meters for Mont Blanc.
La pluralité des paysages est un autre point fort indiscutable de Rocky Mountain avec ses étendues de toundra, ses forêts, ses montagnes et glaciers, ses lacs, ses cascades. Et c’est sans compter la diversité de la faune qu’il est relativement facile d’observer avec, entre autres, ours noirs, coyotes, marmottes, cerfs, écureuils, élans, mouflons et plus de 300 espèces d’oiseaux.
Created in 1915, the park preserves a relatively small but still important part of the Chaine des Rocheuses. The site was also recognized by Unesco as a biosphere reserve in 1976. It is more than 70 million years of tectonic plate movements , erosion, ice ages and climatic hazards that have shaped this idyllic setting. You can only be right to want to see it with your own eyes
Entrances to the park : there are four entrances
Beaver Meadows , Kawuneeche and Fall River visitor centers which are open year-round;
Alpine and Moraine Park visitor centers which are only open in summer and early fall.
Entrance fees : 2 5 dollars valid for 1 day or 35 dollars valid for 7 consecutive days. The national park pass is accepted.
Duration of the visit : 1 day minimum. 2 or 3 days will not be too much if you like hiking.
Opening hours : the park is open all year round, 24 hours a day. You can find the schedules of the 5 visitor centers on nps.gov .
Reservation 2022 : A reservation is required to enter the park between May 27 and October 10 . Two types of reservations:
For Bear Lake and the rest of the park (outside these hours, there is no need to reserve);
Preparing for your visit to American national parks
Rocky Mountain Climate
The best seasons to travel to Rocky Mountain are summer and fall . The temperatures are milder and the weather drier. However, due to the altitude, the weather can change abruptly. So bring warm clothes.
The park also receives visitors in the winter who come to ski or hike on snowshoes. However, the main road – Trail Ridge Road – is closed from mid-October to the end of May . In early spring, most hiking trails are still covered in snow.
We went to Rocky Mountain at the very beginning of July . This was a perfect time for me as I wanted to hike and be able to access Trail Ridge Road. We still saw snow! First time in summer. We were able to observe wild animals and see the pretty flowers that had just bloomed on the tundra . The wind could be icy especially at altitude but the sun was there. Only downside : Old Fall River Road – one of the roads in the park – was still closed.
What to do in Rocky Mountain?
Depending on how long you plan to stay in the park, I suggest you discover different regions of Rocky Mountain. If you’re visiting in the summer, plan to get up early to start your hikes before the mass of visitors.
The program that I organized for my road-trip requires staying at least a day and a half in the park. If you only have one day, I would advise you to focus on the Bear Lake Road area .
In the summer, Bear Lake is one of the most visited places in the park . If you can’t arrive before 9:00 a.m. and there are no spaces available at the parking lot, you can take a free shuttle to the Park and Ride next to Glacier Basin.