What to Wear for Colorado's Rocky Mountain Weather

Park visitors to the park need to prepare for two distinct climates within Rocky Mountain National Park - each has its own unique gear checklist.
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Elk lounging in the mountainside in Rocky Mountain National Park

You’ve been looking forward to exploring Rocky Mountain National Park for years. There’s so much to see and do, like the hike you’re planning to Gem Lake, or the wildlife watching photo safari you’ve penciled in to capture the park’s majestic elk. It's time to start thinking about the gear you’ll need for the park’s high altitude terrain and extreme weather conditions.

Rocky Mountain National Park’s high-altitude terrain and weather are Extreme. Visitors to the park need to prepare for two distinct climates within Rocky Mountain National Park - each has its own unique gear checklist. The low country (7,500 feet) around Estes Park and Moraine Park see summertime temperatures in the mid 70’s with nighttime lows dropping to the low 40’s. Thunderstorms typically roll in every afternoon, but can also happen in the mornings.

At elevations 10,000 feet and above (high country), the unpredictable weather can change rapidly. Temperature swings of 30-40 degrees can take you from summer to winter in a matter of minutes and the winds can be fierce. If you’re planning a hike, it’s best to start very early in the morning, especially if your hike takes you into the higher elevations. And as a rule of thumb, plan to summit and start heading back down the mountain by noon to avoid exposure to lightening. Always check the weather forecast and be aware of looming dark storm clouds and lightning.

Bring Gear and Clothes to Stay Warm, Dry and Comfortable

Preparing for Rocky Mountain National Park’s diverse and sometimes extreme weather needs to be a mandatory part of your pre trip planning. The last thing you want to worry about is how the weather might derail your plans, so come prepared with the right gear to keep you warm, dry and comfortable in the park’s extreme climate.

  • Hiking footwear that is waterproof but also breathable. 
  • All-weather shells that’ll keep you protected from the wind and dry in wet conditions
  • Layers of clothing so you can take off a layer as it gets warm, or add a layer if it gets cold.

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