Full Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park with 10+ Tips

We have spent many days exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. Most of the time is spent hiking and discovering incredible views, which are pretty much anywhere you go.

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So in addition to hiking, here is a complete guide to Rocky Mountain National Park with kids. This includes fun activities, unique activities, where to visit and where to stay.

It also includes info on getting that mandatory reservation during peak season.

So read on for the full guide to Rocky Mountain National Park to plan for the perfect visit.

Fun Things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park with kids

Take a Hike

Hiking is the obvious choice of things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park. There are plenty of beautiful and easy hikes that the kids will love, but will still give you great features and views.

Even if you enter on the less-popular west side of the park, there are plenty of kid-friendly hiking opportunities.


I’d only recommend this with older kids that really understand bicycle safety. Also, as this isn’t a leisurely activity (plenty of hills and distances), it’s for those experienced on a bicycle.

If that sounds like your family, you can actually enter Rocky Mountain National Park on a bicycle.

Timed-entry passes are not required for entering on a bike.

However, you will need a per-person pass. Unless you have an annual or lifetime pass. Then, your pass will cover up to 4 people on their bike.


For a bit less-strenuous activity, take the kids fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park!

You must have a Colorado Fishing license, which can be obtained from the State of Colorado online.

There are plenty of spots to catch-and-release, as well as lakes to catch-and-keep!

Check out the full list of requirements and locations to fish.

Horseback Riding

You can bring your horse to the park with you in designated areas and camp areas. Find all the rules and requirements of bringing your horse before you go.

Lunch with a View

Packing a picnic and eating inside RMNP has been one of our great memories! On our latest trip in the fall, we sat at a picnic table and watch the elk across the meadow bugle and chase each other.

There are so many picnic areas in the park. Make sure to take advantage of them. It will allow you and the kids to rest after a hike and really enjoy what RMNP offers in terms of scenery and wildlife.

Join the Junior Ranger Program

Kids can grab an activity packet at any of the open visitor centers. Then, explore the park and earn your badge.

There are activity booklets for different ages, so each child will be able to fully participate.

Complete the activity book, then take it to a ranger at a visitor center. They will sign a certificate and you’ll earn your badge!

The Alluvial Fan hike at Rocky Mountain National Park.  Water cascading down shallow, smooth rock surface. Evergreen trees all around growing out of the mountain

Unique Things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park

Guided Snowshoe Walk

You can book a reservation to take a ranger-guided snowshoe walk in Rocky Mountain National Park.

These fun walks are held January through March and don’t cost anything additional (just a parks entry pass).

Bring your own snowshoes and participate in this 2-hour winter hike through the beauty of RMNP.

Astronomy in the Park

During select Fridays in the summer, you can stop by the Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead. Here, a team of volunteers and rangers who are skilled in astronomy will help you gaze at the night sky through telescopes. See visitor centers for updated info.

Stories Behind the Moon and Stars

This is a fun thing to do in Rocky Mountain National Park with kids!

This one-and-a-half hour program at the Moraine Park Discovery Center is for all ages. You’ll enjoy stories and activities that celebrate nighttime at RMNP.

Check Visitor Centers for dates and times.

Rocky Mountain National Park Winter Activities

This national park is not just for summer! Here is your guide to Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

From guided snowshoe walks (noted in the section above) to sledding, there are still plenty of fun things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.

Snowshoeing at RMNP

Get the kids dressed warmly and grab some snowshoes. You can explore most trails within the park in the wintertime.

Try Bear Lake for an easy trail with the kids, or even Sprague Lake.

Cross Country Skiing

More of the skiing type? While the snow is typically better for cross country skiing on the west side of the park, you can ski in an area of the park.


You can’t sled anywhere in the park. But you can head to Hidden Valley (east side) and make a day of it!

The hill is a decent sledding hill, as it was previously a bunny hill of the former Hidden Valley ski resort.

Bring your own sleds and enjoy a family fun day of sliding down the snowy hills of RMNP.

(You’ll even have a real bathroom to use at the bottom of the hill).


More Great Stops at Rocky Mountain National Park

Holzwarth Historic Site

Located on the west side of the park, this is a fun stop in Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids. Explore an old homesteading site and the exhibits!

Moraine Park Discovery Center

Open only during summer, you can explore the exhibits on the east side of the park at the Moraine Park Discovery Center. You can also use a real toilet.

How to Get There (East Entrance)

Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park- East Entrance is about 70 miles from downtown Denver. It takes a little over 1-1/2 hours to arrive at the Beaver Meadows Entrance on the East Side of the Park. To get there, take I-25 north to highway 66 and head west. Then you can follow the signs to Estes Park, the city which Rocky Mountain National Park is located. Be on the lookout for Elk and Moose roaming around Estes Park!

>> Flying into Denver? Don’t forget the Rental Car! <<

Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is about 3 hours from Colorado Springs to the east side entrances.

Fort Collins to Rocky Mountain National Park

The park is an easy drive from Fort Collins, at just over an hour drive.  You can take either 25 south or Taft Hill/Wilson Rd South until you get to Highway 34.  Then head west right into Estes Park.

Reservations into Rocky Mountain National Park – Timed Entry

Right now in Rocky Mountain National Park, you have to have reservations to enter from late May to late October.  This is new ever since the emergence of Covid. 

To make a reservation, go to RMNP’s website, then scroll down to “Park Entrance Fees and Passes.

2024: reservations are available May 1st for late May dates and all of June.

July dates can be reserved beginning June 1st, and so one with each month being available the 1st day of the month before.

If you missed the chance at a pass, then there is still hope! You can arrive at the park BEFORE 9 am or AFTER 2 pm to gain access without a reservation. This will give you access to the whole park EXCEPT the Bear Lake corridor.

If you are purchasing your park fee when you arrive (instead of beforehand online), know that the entrance ranger stations are CASHLESS. If you only have cash, you’ll need to visit a Rocky Mountain Conservancy Nature Store to pay in cash beforehand.

Where to Stay INSIDE Rocky Mountain National Park


There are a 5 campgrounds within the park.  You really want to get a reservation as soon as possible as they are highly sought after and fill up quickly. 

For the campgrounds that require reservations, try to book six months in advance.


The Aspenglen campground is open seasonally, starting in late May.  You must have a reservation which can be made 6 months in advance.  With your reservation comes a timed-entry pass to the park (including Bear Lake Rd).

You may enter the park starting at 1 PM on the day of your reservation.

Each campsite welcomes up to 8 people.  This includes 2 tents, or one RV/trail and one tent.

Campsites are $30/night

The campgrounds have metal grate fire pits and firewood for sale, as you may NOT gather firewood.  You’ll also get potable water and food storage lockers which are important for bear safety.

RVs and trailers up to 30 feet are welcome on the campground.

Closed on Holidays.

Get the kids excited for camping with these camping themed toys and gifts!

Moraine Park

Moraine Park will be closed from May 2023 to Summer 2024 for repairs

Moraine Park is a first-come first-served campground during winter, and reservation-based during summer months.

Here you’ll have limited-to-no cellphone reception.

Moraine Park campers have access to trash, vault toilets (year round), flush toilets (seasonal), and potable water (year round across from the ranger station). 

Moraine Park is open year round, including holidays. 

Fees are $30 per night at Moraine Park Campground.

Glacier Basin

Glacier Basin is open seasonally in the summers.  It is closed on holidays.

Located on Bear Lake Road, camping at Glacier Basin campground will also get you automatic

access to the popular part of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Glacier Basin has seasonal potable water available, as well as trash, food storage lockers, and firewood for sale. 

This campground also has flush toilets.

Glacier Basin fees differ depending on the size of group you bring. 

The starting rate for a campsite is $30/night.

You may bring one RV/trailer and a tent, or 2 tents.

Longs Peak

Longs Peak Campground is located farther south on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. 

It is open only in the summer (closed on holidays) and does not have water available, so make sure to pack enough!

You can use a food storage locker at Longs Peak, but there is no firewood for sale, so make sure to bring your own.

Camping at Longs Peak Campground is $30/night and is open to tents only.

Reservations are not needed as it is first-come first-served only.

Timber Peak

Timber Peak Campground is the only campground on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It is a seasonal campground, opening in late May each year and reservations are mandatory.  It is closed on holidays.

Timber Peak has firewood for sale, flush toilets, and potable water. 

However, you’ll have to store all food in the car as there are no storage lockers. 

Camping at Timber Peak is $30/night and open to one RV/trailer plus a tent, or just two tents.

Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park includes staying at the Estes Park Resort.   hotel right on the lake with mountains in the background
Estes Park Resort

Where to Stay in Estes Park

Estes Park is a great place to stay if you don’t want to camp. There are 3 cool places to stay with the family, depending on what you are looking for.

If you have older kids that like a little suspense, you can stay at the Stanley Hotel. This place is where Stephen King was inspired for The Shining, as is rumored to be a bit haunted! No pets, no RVs.

Another great option is the Estes Park Resort. This is where we have stayed and it’s gorgeous! It’s the only hotel on Lake Estes, giving it a beautiful scenery. You can even just walk out and take a stroll on the path around the lake.

The YMCA of the Rockies is another great place to stay in Estes Park. This is more budget-friendly and not far from Rocky Mountain National Park. Plus, they’ve got activities all day long for the whole family! (Read more about YMCA)

kids walking on flat dirt trail, dry grasses at the sides of a groomed trail, clear blue skies

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather

I really can’t give you an idea of what to expect. So, it’s best to go knowing you can’t expect anything in particular. To visit Rocky Mountain National Park, bring layers and a hiking pack. Some days it is chilly, some hot. There may be snow at the top of where you’re going.

The earlier in the day you can get in, the better due to weather changes in the afternoon.  We went last year. We checked the weather upon arrival: sunny forecast.

We began one of our hikes with completely clear skies. Right as we got to the top (Bierstadt Lake), it began thunder-storming. Expect the unexpected, and be prepared!

Try to reserve an early time in the morning to get the best weather before afternoon storms. But even if you get an afternoon slot, there are plenty of hikes that are shorter where you can quickly get to safety if needed. 

Getting Around in Rocky Mountain National Park- Shuttle

Shuttle Overview

Upon entering the park, you will be given a map with all the trails and roads to get there.  Take note of where the Park-and-Ride is on the East Side, on the road to Bear Lake (just across from Glacier Basin Campground).  There is a large parking lot there, along with restrooms (no-flush). 

Hiker Shuttle

Did you know that you can actually take the Hiker Shuttle in from Estes Park into Rocky Mountain National Park?

Forget dealing with parking at all. If you are visiting the east side of RMNP, you can get around the major stops solely by shuttle.

Pick up the shuttle at the Estes Park Visitor’s Center. This will take you to the Park and Ride inside of RMNP.

To access this “Hiker Shuttle”, you will need both a pass into RMNP as well as a $2 reservation (per person) for the shuttle.

You can reserve up to 4 Hiker Shuttle tickets per account, so if you have more than 4 people in your party (including babies!), you’ll have to have another adult book tickets on their account as well.

Reserve your Hiker Shuttle Tickets from Estes Park to the Park and Ride.

Bear Lake Shuttle

Once you are in the park at the Park and Ride, you can choose from two different shuttles to see most major areas of the east side of RMNP.

The Bear Lake Shuttle Route will take you to Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and end its route at Bear Lake.

Moraine Park Route shuttle

If you are camping at Moraine Park or Glacier Basin, this route will get you to the Park and Ride, where you can then jump on the Bear Lake shuttle.

This shuttle also makes a couple other stops, including the very walkable Sprague Lake.

Make the day hiking easier and comfortable with these hiking necessities

Visitor Centers at Rocky Mountain National Park

We have grown to really appreciate visitor centers, so when we go to Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids, we make sure to stop!

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open year round on the east side of the park, with shorter hours in the off season. Enjoy education, exhibits, and real toilets.

The Kawunechee Visit Center is on the west side of the park. Here you’ll find a gift shop and real toilets.

The Alpine Visitor Center is located where Trail Ridge Road and Old Fall River Road meet. It’s the highest National Park Visitor Center that you can visit! Only open seasonally, you can go in and grab some great souvenirs.

Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park with Kids

As you see, Rocky Mountain National Park is HUGE! We have taken an entire day just driving through the entire park in fall, just making quick side-of-the-road stops to admire the changing colors.  We’ve also stayed a few days to experience all the great hikes and sites.

Hopefully this guide to Rocky Mountain National Park helps you plan a nice, smooth visit!

Coming in from the west entrance? Check out these awesome trails in RMNP from the west!

Here are a few photos of Rocky Mountain National Park as we part!

fall colors at Rocky Mountain National Park with kids

Fall in RMNP

Mountains at Rocky Mountain National Park with kids

Passing the top of Trail Ridge Rd, closed mid-October through Memorial Day

FAQ about Rocky Mountain National Park

Are there gas stations in Rocky Mountain National Park?

No, there are no gas stations in the park. Make sure to fill up your tank in Estes Park before you enter.

What is the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is in late spring or fall. Spring will give you beautiful, full waterfalls. Fall is filled with colors across Trail Ridge Road and beyond. Both seasons have decent weather as well.

Can you just drive through Rocky Mountain National Park?

Yes! You can just drive through Rocky Mountain National Park, and many people do. There are great pull overs if you need to stretch. In fall, driving across Trail Ridge Road is filled with color. But Trail Ridge Road closes down in October for the season.

Do you have to pay just to drive through Rocky Mountain National Park?

Yes, you have to pay just to drive through. Going through the entrance requires a park pass, which must be reserved ahead of time in the summer months.

How Many Days do you need to see Rocky Mountain National Park?

You can see a lot in one day, but two days will give you a better experience to really explore different trails and sections of the park.

Is Rocky Mountain National Park in Denver?

No, Rocky Mountain National Park is not in Denver. The park is about 70 miles outside of Denver, by the town of Estes Park.

Are Dogs Allowed at Rocky Mountain National Park?

Dogs are not allowed on any trails in Rocky Mountain National Park (except service animals). However, leashed dogs may come to your camping spot or in your car as you drive through. Do not leave your dog unattended in the car or tied to a tree unaccompanied.

Is Rocky Mountain National Park open in winter?

Yes, Rocky Mountain National Park is open in winter and brings a whole new perspective to the park. Grab some snowshoes and explore the beauty during low season; no reservation required!

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Rocky Mountain National Park with kids hikes pin  - hikes for kids in Rocky Mountain National Park

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