If you’re looking for tall, rugged mountains; pristine alpine lakes; lush green forests; fields of wildflowers; and abundant wildlife; look no further than Rocky Mountain National Park! This place has got it all.
The park is very expansive. It spans 358 square miles and contains numerous peaks, many which tower up past 14,000 feet tall. The exploration opportunities here are endless! One thing I wish we knew before we entered the park through the Estes Park entrance is that the majority of the scenic hikes are on that side. We were in a rush trying to get to Timber Creek Campground on the other side of the park (it was the only first come, first serve campground in the park) so we decided to drive straight through, saving the stops along the way for another day. What we didn’t know is that the road to the other end of the park would be incredibly steep and windy. The road climbs a mountain all the way up past 12,000 feet and hugs the edge the entire time! Our van was having some transmission troubles at the time and we knew we shouldn’t have been driving it on roads like that, so we ended up having to stay on the Grand Lake side of the park for the remainder of our time there (there was no way our van could make it back up and down that pass again!) Just keep this in mind if your van is as old as our ’92 Ford and make sure you see everything you want to see on that side of the park before you continue going west.
There are so many hikes in the area and the best part is that you’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife on any one you choose! There are tons of elk and moose roaming around. In fact, a ranger told us that the moose were over-abundant this year because there was a short winter so none of them really died like they usually do.
There are also several different campgrounds you can choose from, but you need reservations for most of them except Timber Creek. You can camp there for $20 a night if you are able to snag a spot early enough. Or drive outside the park past Grand Lake and towards Granby where you’ll find some free BLM options.
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park