Rocky Mountain

Hiking on the Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best 2-Day Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary

Explore the best Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer from hiking to scenic drives to horseback riding on this epic itinerary.

Great Sand Dunes

Mesa Verde

Black Canyon

Sunset at Painted Wall in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

2 Days in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

With incredible sheer black cliffs, a history-filled past and abundant plants and wildlife, this park is one of Colorado’s most under-rated destinations

Colorado National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument

The Green River winds through Dinosaur National Monument as seen from Harpers Corner

Ultimate Guide to Dinosaur National Monument in Utah & Colorado

Raft one of the West’s last wild rivers, see 149-million-year-old dinosaur fossils and sleep under the stars at this uncrowded national monument.

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Rocky Mountain National Park Essentials: 14 Basic Things You Need to Know

Read this before you plan your visit to the park.

The soul of the Colorado Front Range, Rocky Mountain National Park’s spirit is reflected in its alpine lakes, tumbling waterfalls and dozens of peaks that reach 12,000 feet and higher. The Continental Divide splits this park in two with Trail Ridge Road forming a bridge between the gateway towns of Estes Park at the east end and Grand Lake at the west end. Wherever you are in Rocky, it’s hard to miss the the wildlife: moose wander the wetlands, bighorn sheep balance on the cliffs and herds of elk put on a bugling show each autumn. But before you head to the park, here are a few basic Rocky Mountain National Park essentials you need to know.

Plan ahead.

In an effort to decrease epic traffic, improve the visitor experience and spread out the impact of millions of visitors to the park, Rocky Mountain National Park has launched a reservation system again for 2023. Timed-entry reservations are required between May 26 and October 22, and are in addition to your entrance fee. You can get your timed-entry reservation for $2 at

Get your pass.

In addition to your timed-entry reservation, you’ll need to pay a park entrance fee. You can buy a $35, 7-day pass at a park entrance station, or use your America the Beautiful or other interagency annual pass to get into the national park.

Hike smart.

Afternoon thunderstorms occur daily in the summer months and lightning can pose a real danger to hikers. Hike in the morning and plan to be back at the trailhead by mid-day. If you hear thunder or see building, dark clouds, turn back immediately.

Hiker on the Emerald Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park (: Getty Images) Ride the shuttle.

Trailhead parking lots fill notoriously early. Unless you arrive first thing in the morning, plan to take the park shuttle. Park at the Bear Lake Park & Ride where you can transfer to the Bear Lake Route or the Moraine Park Route to access hiking trails. Visitors can also take the Hiker Shuttle from the Estes Park Visitor Center outside the park, which has a large parking garage.