Rocky Mountain National Park has two distinct sides: the east side which is closest to Denver, Colo. and the west side, which is closest to many of Colorado’s ski towns such as Winter Park. While both sides of the park can be explored in the same day, the park is vast and you’ll want to choose which side of the park to stay at based on the activities and sights you’re most interested in.
There is Only Camping Inside the Park
There is no lodging in Rocky Mountain National Park, but there are five campgrounds to choose from. The Aspen Glen, Glacier Basin, Longs Peak and Moraine Park campgrounds are all on the park’s east side. To the west, you’ll find Timber Creek Campground.
Longs Peak and Timber Creek campgrounds are first-come, first-served. The remaining three are available by reservation. Be sure to make your reservations at www.recreation.gov well in advance as campsites fill up quickly.
Best Hotels and Cabins at Rocky’s East Entrances
The closest town to Rocky Mountain’s east side is charismatic Estes Park, Colo. It sits just minutes from two of the park’s entrances. Here you’ll find a variety of local lodging options from upscale historic hotels to cabin rentals. Estes Park has many restaurants and shopping experiences including a grocery store. Stay at the Quality Inn Estes Park or the newly renovated Ridgeline Hotel for a modern vacation, or book a room or cabin at YMCA of the Rockies for a weekend of family friendly fun.
Thirty minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park’s Beaver Meadows Entrance on the eastern side, you’ll find the town of Lyons, Colo. Lyons packs a ton of small-town charm with fewer crowds than Estes Park. Here you’ll find several independent lodging options and a variety of local restaurants, including Mojo Taqueria, a local favorite, and the world’s first butter bar, Bella La Crema.
The closest town with chain hotels and shopping opportunities like Wal-Mart and Target is Longmont, Colo., but go just a little farther south to base out of the energetic college town of Boulder, Colo. Just 50 minutes from the park’s eastern entrances, Boulder has chain and independent hotels, shopping and restaurants in addition to a vibrant local foodie scene, local boutique shopping and B&B hotels and hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails, plus a world-class rock climbing scene in Eldorado Canyon State Park.
Best Hotels, Cabins and RV Sites at Rocky’s West Entrance
The closest town to Rocky Mountain National Park’s less-crowded west side is Grand Lake, Colo. A small town of 400, this quaint lakeside community offers several local dining and shopping options, local accommodations from hotels to cabin rentals and unparalleled natural beauty. The only hotel and cabins on the lake’s edge are at Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging with five styles of lodging including private vacation homes.
Twenty minutes south of the park’s west entrance, the slightly larger town of Granby, Colo. has a grocery store and more independent dining and lodging options. Stay at the River Run Resort if you’re traveling with your rig, or if you want a cabin resort or glamping experience.
Finding a campsite in one of the country’s most popular national parks can be a challenge. Instead, head north of Granby to State Forest State Park where your odds of scoring a site are better. A bonus? State Forest State Park is Colorado’s “moose capital” so you might just see more wildlife than in the national park.
For a more upscale getaway, head to the ski town of Winter Park, Colo., 50 minutes south for everything from resort-style lodging to condo rentals. Winter Park also offers a variety of dining options and both summer and winter activities.
Unique Lodging Near the Park
Looking for something a little different? Book a room at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, the inspiration behind Stephen King’s The Shining. Stay in one of the haunted rooms for a little bit of extra adrenaline. Looking for lodging that won’t keep you up all night? Head to WeeCasa in Lyons, a resort made of tiny homes nestled along North St. Vrain Creek and be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the water.
On the park’s west side, Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, Colo. is the luxury dude ranch from your dreams. Ride horses, relax at the spa, dine at their incredible restaurants and fall asleep to the sounds of nature. For a more affordable version, stay at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch where you can rent a cabin, yurt or stay in a basic lodge room with hiking trails out your door, an arts and crafts studio, indoor rock climbing and roller skating and more.
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