The song “America the Beautiful” makes reference to “purple mountain majesties”. Rocky Mountain National Park helped make sense of that line for me. The unparalleled beauty of the Rocky Mountains is on full display in this park. It makes an easy day trip from Denver or Boulder but to get the full effect of it, one must stay at least a couple days. A drive down Trail Ridge Road or hiking in the vast wilderness of the park is an unforgettable experience.
Entry to the park costs US$20 per vehicle for a day pass and US$30 for a 7-day pass (as of March 2016).
Five developed campgrounds are available inside the park. Outside of the park, there is plenty of lodging available in Estes Park and Grand Lake. We stayed at Moraine Park campground, which is fairly centrally located to the natural attractions we wanted to see. It’s near the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station and costs US$26 per night (as of March 2016). Other developed campgrounds include Glacier Basin, Longs Peak, Timber Creek, and Aspenglen.
We were very lucky to get a campsite without reservations just after Labor Day weekend, so I highly recommend reservations during the park’s high season in the summer and fall. We were happy with the facilities in the campground. The bathrooms were heated and kept clean, there was water near our tent site, and ice and firewood were available near the entrance. Bear boxes were provided but rangers also said it’s possible to leave all food and cosmetics inside cars.
There are four visitor centers in the park where you can learn about park conditions and ranger guided programs. We stopped at Beaver Meadows (park headquarters) before entering the park to get information and Alpine during our drive along Trail Ridge Road. We didn’t stop at Kawuneeche or Fall River. The visitor centers give a great overview of the geology of the park and wildlife that lives in it.
There is an endless list of things to do at Rocky Mountain National Park. Fishing, camping, hiking, mountain climbing, picnicking, and horseback riding are among the activities that are popular.
It’s good to expect the unexpected as far as weather. At the lower elevations in the park we got by without a jacket but once we got up to the higher elevations along Trail Ridge Road, it got very cold and windy.