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  • Foto do escritorDanae Bianco

4 days in Rocky Mountain National Park

Atualizado: 10 de jun.

Incredible views, awesome nature, stunning waterfalls, fantastic wild-life, great hikes, excellent infrastructure, I could go on and on about the beauty and greatness of the Park.

It was the first time we were in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I can honestly say we fell in love with the Park. It was a really short trip, but it was amazing! I would do it again an again, and come back as many times as I could.

If you have only a few days to explore the area, come with us, here I share all our experience.

two girls looking at snowy mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
Trail Ridge Road

The best of Rocky Mountain National Park in 4 days:


Why should you go to Rocky Mountain National Park?

We've visited the USA countless times before, so this time around, we were seeking a different kind of American experience.

I looked for a place that combined easy access + natural beauty + outside big centers + that was new to us. If that sound exciting to you, Rocky Mountain National Park won't desappoint you.

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), located in the state of Colorado, near Denver, was established in 1915 and is one of the oldest national parks in the United States. It encompasses a variety of ecosystems and landscapes, including meadows, waterfalls, alpine lakes, tundra, and snow-capped peaks that will surprise you at every turn of the road (yes, there are plenty of twists and turns).

Additionally, the region is home to a diverse array of wildlife; we were able to spot reindeer, moose, bighorn sheep, beavers, hares, squirrels, and various birds.

In 2023, it was the fifth most visited national park in the US, with over 4.1 million visitors!

Rocky Mountain is so vast and diverse that you could spend several days just exploring the park - we stayed for 3 full days and still had plenty left to see, trails to hike and viewpoints to visit. But, on the other hand, if you only have 1 day, go for it! Don't miss the opportunity to visit one of the most stunning parks in the United States.

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
Bear Lake

How to get to Rocky Mountain National Park?

The main airport near Rocky Mountain NP is in Denver. We were coming from Brazil and, unfortunately, there were no direct flights between São Paulo (our home town) and Denver, so we had a connection in Dallas on our way in and in Miami on the way back.

The town of Estes Park, which we used as our base for exploring the park, is located 74.5 miles from the airport. It took us approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to cover the distance by rental car.

Entrance sign, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA

Best Places to stay near Rocky Mountain National Park

We stayed in Estes Park, a charming little town at the east entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Alpine Trail Ridge Inn was our choice: an inn-style hotel, nothing glamorous, but it had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. The location was very good, close to the Park entrance. The rooms were a good size, with two queen beds that could fit our family (2 adults and 2 kids). The bathroom was a bit small, but it was clean. The kids even got to enjoy the small hotel pool in the late evening. Overall, it was a nice experience..

Other good options around Estes Park, with great reviews, are:

The Estes Park Resort - This resort boasts excellent facilities and seems perfect for families. Its location right by Estes Lake is ideal.

The Inn on Fall River - Nestled right next to Fall River, this inn offers a delightful location very close to the Fall River entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Hotel Estes - Choosing between this hotel and the Alpine Trail Ridge Inn was hard. Hotel Estes appears to have a more upscale design and stunning views, but the Trail Ridge Inn is closer to the park entrance.

If you want a really nice experience, with historic and mistery touches, check The Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.

You can check availability and rates here:

Many Parks Curve Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA

Best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park

We visited Rocky Mountain National Park in the last week of spring and the weather was perfect! The sun was shinning (it only rained one afternoon) and temperatures ranged from 42ºF to 75ºF.

The park is open year-round, but from October to May there is snow and some parts are closed: Trail Ridge Road, which accesses the highest part of the park, is open from late May to mid-October, and Old Fall Road only opens in July (so we couldn't get to this part of the Park).

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA

Timed Entry Permit to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is open year-round, 24 hours a day, but if you are visiting it this summer (from May 24 to October 20, 2024), you need to guarantee, in advance, your Timed Entry Permit, in addition to the regular Park Pass or Entrance Fee.

Tip: It is essential to purchase the Timed Entry Permit as soon as possible. Write down in your calendar the day the reservations become available for date you want to go to the Park and as soon as the sale opens, buy it!

I bought it on the day it was released, an hour after they became available (I got confused on time zones😫) and for the Bear Lake Road area I only got it for one day at 10am and another day at 2pm. It's insane, the sale opens and ends in a matter of minutes. Get ready!

Timed Entry Permit for Bear Lake Road is needed between 5am – 6 pm, and for the rest of the Park, 9 am – 2 pm (for 2024 season)

For 2024 season:

Reservations for park timed entry will open on May 1st for access to the park from May 24th to June 30th, 2024. Subsequently, reservations for the month of July and the remaining days of June will open on June 1st. This pattern will continue, with reservations opening on the first of each month for the following month.

By the time we were there, regular park admission was US$30 for one day/vehicle or US$35 for seven days/vehicle. Each day of the Timed Entry Permit costs US$2 per vehicle.

At the National Park Service website you can find information about timed entry permits, and heat you can get you reservation.

Grand Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA

Where to eat in Estes Park and Grand Lake

Although American food is not my favorite cuisine (please forgive me, American friends), we went to some really nice restaurants:

- Sweet Basilico, a nice Italian restaurante, a few blocks from the town main street

- Wild Rose, an American restaurant on the main street (W Elkhorn Ave)

- Estes Park Brewery – we love local breweries, and this one was really nice. Good choices of beer, good food and an excellent view

- Himalayan Cury and Kebob – Indian food, we though the girls wouldn’t like it (since they are not used to it), but it was a success! We all loved the tasty and well prepared kebabs and curries

- Coffee or the rocks – our choice for breakfast. Right by a charming lake, excellent coffee and lates

- Mountain Home Café – a great place for a full breakfast, with great pancakes and waffles

- Antonio Real New York Pizza – the pizza was ok, but the lines were huge and we had to wait too long for our pizza to be made. Maybe we had just bad luck, but in doubt, only go there if you have time.

- in Grand Lake, we had lunch at Sagebrush BBQ & Grill.

reindeer, wildlife, at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA

Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park

We had 3 full days in Rocky Mountain National Park and I say the cliché of any amazing place: we could have stayed much longer.

Here’s all the hikes we did:

Day 1: Trail Ridge Road and Grand Lake area

- We set off on an exhilarating drive along Trail Ridge Road, stopping at all viewpoints, including Many Parks Curve Overlook, Rainbow Curve Overlook, Lava Cliffs Overlook, Forest Canyon Overlook, and Gore Range Overlook.

- near the Alpine Visitor Center, we hiked the Mushroom Rocks/Tundra Communities trail (0.5 mile each way)

- in Grand Lake, we hiked Adams Falls trail (0.45 mile each way). There are lots of steps, but nothing really challenging. Our kids (9 and 11) did it really easily.

Day 2: Bear Lake area:

- we hiked the trail around Bear Lake (0.5 mile loop) - I would classify it as a stroll in the park. It is a really easy hike, with many stops to take stunning pictures, and the parking lot is a few feet away from the beginning of the loop.

- Nymph Lake (0.5 mile each way)

- Dream Lake (0.6 mile from Nymph Lake each way) - this stretch has some steps, and towards the end, there was still snow on the trail in late June, but nothing too critical. Still, I would say it's an easy to moderate trail.

This is the most famous area of the park, and it is really worth all its hype.

Day 3:

- Alluvial Fan (0.25 mile each way)

- Lily Lake (0.8 mile full loop)

- Alberta Falls (0.8 mile each way)

- Bear Lake (800m full loop)

Other Posts about traveling in amazing National Parks in the Americas:

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What to do in Rocky Mountain National Park - 4 days itinerary

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