Birdwatching in Rocky Mountain National Park

Grosbeak bird

Pine Grosbeak

Rocky Mountain Park roadways and trails provide access for bird lovers throughout the Park. Those who wish to spend weeks on end exploring the rugged backcountry will be able to do so on one of the Park's many trails. Since Rocky Mountain National Park's creation in 1915, 280 species of birds have been spotted throughout the Park and surrounding regions. Simply put if you are a birder this is the place to be in Colorado.

Exploring the Park is simple. Hike into crystal-clear backcountry lakes, tall aspen groves, thick ponderosa pine, or through expansive open tundra. A large majority of the Park is also accessible by car and short relatively easy hikes.

Birdwatching at Cub Lake

One of the best areas to easily access many of the Park's water birds is from the Cub Lake Trailhead. Here birders can head up the relatively flat trail to Cub Lake. Along the way look for Swainson's Thrush and Lincoln's Sparrow hidden in the reeds lining the creek.

Birdwatching at Endovalley Picnic Area

A bit further to the north, Endovalley Picnic Area is another birder's favorite. Ditch your car at the lot and head into the aspen and spruce groves to find Olive-sided Flycatchers and Pine Grosbeak. Other birds commonly found in aspen groves include Warbling Viereo, woodpeckers and swallows. For more birding continue up Old Fall River Road (only accessible during summer) and look for birds along the valley.

High-alpine Birdwatching

To access the high alpine tundra two options present themselves. The first is to head out on horseback or by foot along one of the Park's 350 plus miles of hiking trails, or to drive Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge takes drivers above 12,000 feet and has several turnouts ideal for birding opportunities. Hiking up a trail accessed from the Rock Cut turnout spotters can see one of the most prized birds of the Park: the White-tailed Ptarmigan. The Ptarmigan resides in the alpine tundra year-around and is the only Ptarmigan to have a white tale. Don't be fooled by the name though, during summer months the bird can have extensive dark patches and be hard to spot.

White-tailed Ptarmigan

White-tailed Ptarmigan during the summer

Kawuneeche Valley

Heading to the western side of the divide plan on exploring Kawuneeche Valley. Aspen groves, willows, and pine are all in abundance and the headwaters of the Colorado river provides several hiking opportunities and trails. Moose and Elk are also common in the valley satisfying most wildlife enthusiasts.

Ranger-led Bird Programs

One of the Park's most popular ranger-led programs happens during summer months as rangers lead bird watching tours throughout the park.

If you plan on exploring the park on your own remember to have a good spotting scope since some areas may be hard to access. If planning to head into the backcountry grab a camping permit from the backcountry office and head out on hopefully a life-changing journey.


Sunset at Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Lakes Inside Rocky Mountain National Park

The park is chocked-full of lakes due to the large glaciers that carved out deep canyons and cirques, while leaving teardrops behind.

Snowshoers on a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park

Snowshoeing & Backcountry Skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park

Whether you want to cross country ski, strap on some snowshoes, or grab a sled, Rocky Mountain Park is a great winter activity destination.

Alberta Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park

14 Favorite Waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park

All but one of Rocky Mountain Park's waterfalls require at least a short hike meaning that it's entirely possible to enjoy a waterfall by yourself.

Watching elk in Moraine Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park

Essentials of Autumn Elk Watching in Rocky Mountain National Park

Where to see elk, when to see them, where to park, and elk watching etiquette at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Moose and Red Wing Blackbird at Sprague Lake on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park

Where to See Moose in Rocky Mountain National Park

Spotting moose is not that difficult. They are so large it's hard to miss them grazing in the low-lying valleys and wet areas near lakes.

Mule Deer in Rocky Mountain National Park

Mule Deer in Rocky Mountain National Park

What do you get when Mickey Mouse is crossed with a deer? A mule deer!

Park Ranger sitting with Children in a national park

Ranger-Led Activities in Rocky Mountain National Park

Spend some time with a ranger to get more in-depth information about your beautiful surroundings.

Fishing at Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park

With four main species of fish, more than 40 fishable lakes, and 25 alpine streams, casting a line is almost sacrilegious.

Wildflowers at Glass Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Where Locals Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hike three uncrowded trails in Rocky Mountain National Park: Sky Pond, Moraine Park to Bear Lake, and the Tonahutu Creek/North Inlet Loop