_What You NEED To Know

Before you pack your bags and buy your plane tickets, there are several things you should know about before you arrive in order to avoid disappointment. These are the top things you need to know before visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.

Nymph Stillness Pano

Reserve an Entry Permit Before You Come:

The first thing you need to know is that the national park has implemented a timed-entry-permit system to limit the number of people allowed into the park during the busy season. You’ll want to be sure that you have reserved your permits before you arrive, or you may find that you can only gain entry very early in the morning or later in the evening. Learn all the details about this new requirement.

Plan for Mountain Weather:

While much of the United States may be enjoying warm spring weather in March, April, and May, these can be the snowiest months of the year. It is not uncommon to experience one- or two-foot snowfalls into mid-March. While it is beautiful, many people arrive unprepared. The same is true in the autumn. You could experience a snowstorm any time after mid-August. By mid-October it is well and truly winter in Rocky Mountain National Park with icy cold winds and snow. Even in the months of June, July, and August you can experience chilly temperatures in the higher elevations of the park. Many of the higher trails stay covered in snow until mid-June. In short, be prepared for weather, very different from what you’ll find in Denver or anywhere else in the United States. Don’t forget to bring warm clothes, no matter when you visit. Learn more about what to expect each month.

August Winter

A snowy August morning on Trail Ridge Road

Book Early:

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the nation’s most popular national parks. As a result, everything tends to book months in advance. Don’t show up expecting to find a hotel room, camping site or even a remote wilderness tent site. All these options start filling many months in advance. To be sure you know the ins and outs, visit our accommodation page, camping, and wilderness camping pages.

Pets Are Not Allowed on Park Trails:

Many visitors come with their furry hiking partner with dreams of summiting peaks together only to find that dogs and other pets are not allowed on any of the national park hiking trails. They are limited to park roads, picnic areas, and a few other locations. Learn more about visiting the park with dogs.

Plan with Elevation in Mind:

Rocky Mountain National Park begins at an elevation of over 7,600’ (2,316m) above sea level and goes up from there. Plans to immediately hit the trail and summit peaks are often met by reality. The elevation will impact your ability to catch your breath even doing simply tasks until your body adjusts. This may take a few days. Ignoring the impacts of elevation and pushing through symptoms of altitude sickness can be potentially life-threatening. Learn more about preparing for visiting high elevation.

Ptarmigan Above the Clouds


Very Little Public Transportation:

Visitors from overseas are often surprised to find that a car is required when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. While it is possible to book a shuttle bus from the Denver airport to Estes Park and there are shuttle systems in Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, you will find these systems inadequate to enable you to visit without a car. The park shuttle system only accesses the Bear Lake Corridor and is not connected to the Estes Park system. Learn more about transportation in and around the national park.

Limited Cell Phone Coverage:

One thing you should be aware of is that there is very limited cell phone connection in Rocky Mountain National Park. While you may be able to connect when near the edges of the park near Estes Park and Grand Lake, as you get deeper into the park you will often have no connection at all. Plan on not having any phone connection when you are in the park. Consider it a blessing, an opportunity to get away from the busy world and leave your cares behind. Because of the poor cell connection in the park, do not plan on relying on your phone for navigation or for emergencies. Bring a physical map and compass with you on the trails and know how to use them. Also, be sure to let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return. This is the cardinal rule for hiking in the national park and is especially important as you most likely won’t be able to call if you need help.