We know exploring a national park can be an exciting activity to do on your own, but why not spend a few hours and check out a ranger-led program? The rewards can be bountiful, and Rocky Mountain National Park has more than a few to choose from.
Curious what an Elk feels like? They've got it covered in an interactive wildlife lecture. Want to learn how to snowshoe? No problem, check out guided snowshoe trips during the winter. Curious why Aspens change color? Just head to a visitor center and check out the nature displays. Not only will your questions be answered, but also your follow-up questions and your kids follow-up, follow-up questions. (Yeah we've got kids and know the feeling of being asked why, why, why.) So why not save yourself the hassle of having to know everything and let a ranger do some work?
Summer Ranger Programs
Rocky Mountain National Park releases summertime schedules typically at the end of May or beginning of June. Tours and times change from year to year, but typically include bird watching programs, wildflower hikes, guided driving tours of Trail Ride Road, and interactive ranger-led wildlife talks at each of the four visitor centers. For a list of all summertime programs make sure to look at the Park's seasonal pamphlet, or just check in at one of the visitor centers.
Fall Ranger Programs
Take advantage of several fall programs to learn about wildlife, the aspen glow, and incoming winter months. Some favorite ranger-led activities include: Tyndall Gorge Walk, which starts from Bear Lake, and explores the Tyndall Gorge, which was cut by a large glacier millions of years ago. Also, Animals in Autumn, a 20-30 minute talk on what the Park's wildlife is up to during the fall months and how they prepare for wintertime.
Winter Ranger Programs
Just because snow is on the ground doesn't mean the Park's ecology and wildlife go into hibernation. Exploring the Park during winter can be a unique and special experience. Nearly desolate trails and parking galore are a stark contrast to busy summer months.
On both the East and West sides of the Park, there are three weekly Snowshoe Ecology walks, and a once a month Full Moon walk. You will be required to provide your own snowshoes, which can be rented from a variety of outfitters in Estes park (East) or Grand Lake (West). You must make your reservation no earlier (and in most cases, no later) than exactly seven days before the tour. Tours are free.
On the Park's East Side, book a free snowshoe tour with the Beaver Meadows Ranger Station (970) 586-1223. Depending on snowpack, tours generally take place in the Bear Lake region and include snowshoe technique, wintertime safety, and ecology. Plan on exploring part on-trail, part off-trail, and if you're lucky, you'll spot a snowshoe hare darting across a fresh pack of powder.
On the Park's West Side, which typically receives more snow than the east side, make your reservations with the Kawuneeche Visitor Center (970) 586-1206. Tours are generally done through the Kawuneeche Valley. The West side also offers cross-country ski tours, a beginning snowshoe tour, and an intermediate snowshoe tour, each once per week. Contact the Visitor Center for days and times.
Get the Schedules
Download the Program Schedule on the NPS website at www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/ranger_led_activities.htm