In Winter, Rocky Mountain National Park Splits in Two


Rocky Mountain Map Pin in Estes Park and Grand Lake
Deposit Photos

Trail Ridge Road connects Estes Park, the eastern gateway town, to Grand Lake, the western gateway town. This high alpine road closes in the winter around mid-October and reopens in early May. Though Trail Ridge Road closes in the winter, Rocky Mountain National Park is OPEN all year.

Learn more about Trail Ridge Road

The story becomes the tale of two Parks

Grand Lake on the West Side

Snowmobiling the Continental Divide near Grand Lake, Colorado
Snowmobiling the Continental Divide near Grand LakeGloria Wadzinski

Grand Lake and greater Grand County can be accessed by I-70 to US 40 over Berthoud Pass, through Winter Park to Granby and east on Hwy 34, about 2.5 hours from Denver.

Snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing are ways to play. The forests, though ravaged by the pine beetle, are beginning to show signs of life. See Mother Nature as she rebuilds. Go find a moose along the North Fork of the Colorado River. (observe from a safe distance please)

Lodges, restaurants and shops are open and offer warm cozy surroundings when not out playing in the woods.

Estes Park on the East Side

Sunrise at a wintery Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Snowshoe to Dream Lake from the trailhead at Bear Lake on the east side of the parkBryce Bradford/Flickr

Estes Park should not be a forgotten mountain town in winter. Gone are the summer crowds. Lodging prices are lower and the fun meter is on high for the seductions of solitude in a Rocky Mountain winter.

Less than two hours of uncrowded highways from Denver Metro via 36, 34, or 7 will easily get you there.

Snowshoeing tours are offered by several companies that can take you deep into the Park and show you the quiet side of playing in the snow. Squirrels may chatter, a weasel or pine marten may cross your path and a gust of wind may shower you with filtered snow as it whistles through the branches of the trees. Cross-country skiing, bird watching, and other activities can occupy the days that are usually filled with bright sunshine high above the Front Range haze.

Culinary delights abound in excellent restaurants. Relax for the evening in a rustic lodge with a fire in the fireplace. Missing the madding crowds? Jam packed I-70 to the ski resorts will be there next weekend. Enjoy the winter solitude in the park.