Weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is a beautiful park with 14,000 ft peaks, picture perfect lakes, waterfalls, and endless hiking trails. Two days is a great amount of time to see the highlights of the park and will allow you to do a peak hike, lake hike, and see the alpine region. Continue reading to plan your weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park.
How to Get to Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Colorado about 1.5 hours from Denver. The best way to get to Rocky Mountain National Park is to fly into Denver (DEN) and rent a car to drive to and around the park. Book a rental car for your weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park on Discover Cars which searches across rental car companies to find you the best price. Use Skyscanner to browse for flights to Denver and find the best price.
Best Time to Go to Rocky Mountain National Park
The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is in the late spring or early fall, when the weather is still nice but the park is less crowded. Rocky Mountain National Park is busiest during July and August so if you are visiting during this time make sure to reserve your accommodation far in advance. Also note that in the summer there are frequent thunderstorms in the afternoon.
Tips for Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
- Save money by purchasing the America the Beautiful Annual Pass ahead of time which covers your entrance to all US national parks for a year. Plan your next national park trip with our national park guides.
- In addition to the pass, between May 27 to October 10, 2022 timed entry permit reservations are required to enter the park. For more information visit the National Park Service website.
- There are no gas stations inside the park so make sure you have enough gas to explore the park for the day.
- Bring snacks with you! There is only one restaurant inside the park, located next to the Alpine Visitor Center (Open May-October).
Where to Stay For a Weekend in Rocky Mountain
Estes Park is a great town to stay in while spending a weekend at Rocky Mountain National Park. This town is closest to the east entrances of the park and it has a nice downtown in with many shops and restaurants. Make sure to book your stay early, especially during the summer months. We stayed at 4 Seasons Inn on Fall River which is located very close to the park entrance and a short distance from restaurants at Estes Park. You can look search for more accommodation options in Estes Park on Booking.com.
What to Pack for a Weekend in Rocky Mountain
- Hiking Bag: Don’t forget a bag to carry what you need for the day! This Gregory Day Pack is the most comfortable hiking bag.
- Water Bottle: This Stanley Water Bottle is perfect for a long hike as it stays cold for 12 hours.
- Sunscreen: Always have sunscreen with you when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park as the sun can be strong because of the high elevation.
- Sunglasses: Just another reminder, since aren’t sunglasses the one thing everyone always forgets?
- Hiking Boots: I recommend wearing shoes with traction like these Salomon Hiking Shoes for your weekend in Rocky Mountain. If you are looking for new boots, check out Backcountry for great deals.
- Clothes for Hiking: Bring light and comfortable clothes for hiking. It can get cold at the higher elevations so make sure to bring layers.
Spend your first day at Rocky Mountain National Park hiking in the beautiful Bear Lake Area. There is parking at the Bear Lake trailhead but it can get full early. If you can’t find parking at the Bear Lake Trailhead you can try the Glacier Gorge Trailhead which is about 0.8 miles away or there is a shuttle available from further parking lots.
I recommend starting with a 10 minute walk around Bear Lake and then hiking to the prettiest lake in this area, Lake Haiyaha. On the way to Lake Haiyaha you can take a 0.8 mile detour (each way) to see three more lakes called Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. If you are interested in a more challenging hike, you can extend the hike into a loop and see The Loch and Alberta Falls. Continue reading this 2-day Rocky Mountain National Park itinerary for additional information regarding the trail options to see the lakes in this area.
Start your day with a short half mile walk around Bear Lake, the most popular lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The next lake you will see on the trail is Nymph Lake. This small lake is surrounded by trees and covered with lily pads. If you continue hiking to Dream Lake you will see a view of Nymph Lake from above.
On the way to Emerald Lake you will see another small lake called Dream Lake. At this point you will be 1.1 miles one way from Bear Lake Trailhead.
Emerald Lake is a scenic lake surrounded by large mountains with waterfalls forming from the melting snow. It is a moderate 1.8 mile hike (one way) from Bear Lake Trailhead to Emerald Lake, with 700 ft elevation gain.
After visiting Emerald lake, continue to Lake Haiyaha to see this beautiful lake with turquoise water. The distance is 3.6 miles round trip from Bear Lake Trailhead to Lake Haiyaha, but if you add the detour to Emerald Lake you will be hiking 5.2 miles in total.
If you are interested in spending your weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park exploring more of the mountains and lakes in the park, you can continue hiking to The Loch. After seeing The Loch you can loop back to Bear Lake Trailhead through Alberta Falls.
Alberta Falls can be seen on the way back to the trailhead (if you do the full loop) or you can hike only to Alberta Falls from Glacier Gorge Trailhead in 1.6 miles roundtrip. I recommend prioritizing the lakes in this area over these falls, but they are a nice treat if you decide to do the 10.5 mile loop.
Hiking Route to See 6 Lakes and Alberta Falls
A weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park is not complete without hiking to a mountain peak and visiting the alpine region.
There are three more national parks in Colorado and endless beautiful hiking trails and views. If you are interested in spending more time exploring Colorado, take a look at these articles for ideas:
Best Hikes in Colorado
12 Most Beautiful Lakes in Colorado
Hike Deer Mountain Trail
Trailhead: Deer Mountain
Length: 5.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 1,400 feet
Parking: Park on the side of the road near the trailhead, spots are limited so arrive early
Start the day with a hike through the forest to the top of Deer Mountain. This trail leads to views of Estes Park, Moraine Park, and surrounding mountains. Try to hike earlier in the day for more clear views, especially in the summer when there are frequent afternoon thunderstorms.
Explore the Alpine Region
Finish your 2 day Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary by visiting the Alpine Region of the park. From the Bear Meadows Visitor Center you can follow Trail Ridge Road for about 45 minutes to reach the Alpine Visitor Center (11,796 ft). Take advantage of the viewpoints along the drive to see more of the park on short hiking trails. The highest elevation on this road is 12,183 ft, located just before the Alpine Visitor Center. While in the Alpine Region try to spot Marmots which are one of the largest members of the squirrel family and can be seen here from May-September. Make sure to bring extra layers as it can get 15-20 degrees colder than Estes Park in the Alpine Region.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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