Wander Always & Stay Wilde


A Spring Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park in the Spring

At 415 square miles, Rocky Mountain National Park spans the Continental Divide and encompasses protected mountains, forests, and alpine tundra. The park’s Trail Ridge Road, which peaks at over 12,000 feet includes several overlooks to experience the subalpine and alpine worlds. Over 300 miles of hiking trails, wildflowers, and wildlife can be found off of Trail Ridge Road too!

Every year, my dad and I plan a National Parks trip together, and next on our list is Rocky Mountain National Park! While in Colorado, our base stay was in Vail for the week. Vail is about a 2-hour one-way drive to Rocky Mountain National Park (4-hour round trip) and 1 hour and 40 min from Denver. There is a lot to see and explore in the area! Although traveling to this park in late April/ early May meant that there would be snow remaining from the winter, this park was still breathtakingly beautiful! Most hiking trails and roads were closed due to inclement weather, but there were still some areas of the park that were accessible to visit at that time of year.


Established as a National Park: January 26, 1915. The area was established in the 1870’s during the gold rush era, by 1904, a section of U.S. Route 34 was completed outside of the park, making way for the Estes Park entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Location: 1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517 (Beaver Meadows Visitor Center)

Best time of year to visit: Although July through August are the most popular months to visit the park and surrounding areas, November through April is the best time to visit to avoid crowds. From June to September, the snow is (mostly) melted and the hiking trails and attractions around the park are accessible.

How many days are needed inside the Park: 2-3 days

Closest airport: Denver International Airport (80 miles)

Closest major cities: Estes Park (7.9 miles), Boulder (44.7 miles), Denver (78.5 miles), Winter Park (111 miles), Vail (126 miles)

Notable sites to see: Alpine Ridge Road, Old Fall River Road, Trail Ridge Road, Longs Peak, Sprague Lake, Glacier Gorge, Bear Lake, and Gore Range Overlook.


Bear Lake Nature Trail

Bear Lake Nature Trail is a 0.7 mile loop trail that is heavily trafficked and good for all skill levels.. The loop trail circles around the lake and is best used from March until November. In early May, I was able to comfortably walk the trail with waterproof hiking boots since the snow was melted in a lot of areas on the trails. Definitely do some research before your visit about weather conditions because proper footwear traction may be needed on the snow and ice.

Length: 0.7 mi | Elevation gain: 49 ft | Route type: Loop

Alberta Falls Trail

Alberta Falls Trail is a 1.6-mile out-and-back trail located within the National Park. It is good for all skill levels and is heavily trafficked and is best used from May until October. There is an area at the base of the falls where you can choose to hike to the top – this area was very steep in the snow and I would not advise those to climb if you have health conditions. It was quite the incline, so much so that I climbed most of the incline with my hands in the snow and was out of breath when I reached the top!

Length: 1.6 mi | Elevation gain: 252 ft | Route type: Out & back

Keep a lookout for wildlife while you are in the park. We saw deer everywhere!


As our home base for the week in Colorado, Vail was centrally located to the different areas that we were able to explore! Vail is a small town nestled in the Rocky Mountains and is most known for its ski resort. It is also a summertime destination for golfing, hiking, and outdoor festivals. In town, there are two different European-inspired villages to explore, dine, and shop – Vail Village and Lionshead, both of which are connected by pedestrian-friendly and heated streets. Vail is also home to the country’s largest free transportation system that runs frequently in the town!

Note: Depending on the time of year, be sure to check travel conditions each day while traveling. We hit a storm during our stay, and this can cause the highway to close and affect any of your plans. We ended up being stuck in town one day because of the closures.



One day while in Vail, we took to the road and drove about 45 minutes on the Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway to Leadville, Colorado. Located at 10,152 ft above sea level, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in North America. This city is the epitome of Colorado high country! Towering above the surrounding area are Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive, Colorado’s two tallest fourteeners (mountains higher than 14,000 ft)! The Twin Lakes are also located adjacent to the state’s two largest glacial lakes that provide gorgeous views of the summits. To capture Lake County’s best views, be sure to take a drive on the 82-mile Top of the Rockies Scenic and Historic Byway. One of my favorite stops in town was the multi-level Antique Mall located downtown. There was so much to look at inside, and I left with a few pieces to take home!


A 45-minute drive from Vail will take you to Breckenridge, another popular winter sports destination in Colorado. The downtown area is filled with countless shops and places to eat. While skiing and snowboarding are the main attractions in the winter months, there are hiking and mountain biking trails, alpine slides and coasters, as well as water sports offered in the area offering a different type of summer alpine experience for visitors and locals alike!

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park or Colorado?

What are your favorite places to visit?

Comment below!

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