100 Reasons to Love Rocky Mountain National Park

A view of the mountains and trees in the fall.

There are so many reasons to love Rocky Mountain National Park. To simplify your visit to RMNP, we gathered our favorite 100 activities and things to do that make our side of the park so special.

 Whether you've never been to the park or you return year after year, you're sure to find some new reasons to love Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Essential Experiences

1. Stop by the Kawuneeche Visitor Center inside the western entrance to the park to get your bearings with their three-dimensional map.
2. Driving from Grand Lake over Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in North America.
3. Hiking to the headwaters of America's most dramatic river — the Colorado.
4. Elk bugling season, particularly in the Kawuneeche Valley.
5. Seeing the backside of one of Colorado's most prestigious 14ers, the 14,255-foot Longs Peak, from the Never Summer Wilderness.
6. Taking a sailboat out onto Grand Lake — the largest natural lake in Colorado — and viewing Mount Craig and the western valleys of the park.
7. Hiking to the historic ghost town at Lulu City.
8. Discovering tiny flowers — such as Sky Pilot and Alpine Forget-Me-Nots — above the tree line on Trail Ridge Road.
9. Camping at one of the 98 sites available at the Timber Creek Campground.
10. Going on a horseback riding tour through the park's western valleys (with an outfitter from Grand Lake).
11. Taking National Geographic-worthy photographs of elk with a telephoto lens as the majestic creatures graze on the tundra along Trail Ridge Road.
12. Visiting the gushing waters of Adams Falls during the height of runoff in May.
13. Spotting wildlife along the short, handicap-accessible Coyote Valley Trail through the Upper Colorado River Valley.
14. Checking out the many programs at the Trail River Ranch Educational Center in the park. Some examples include family fly fishing days, birds of Kawuneechee Valley, youth programs and songwriting.
15. Looking for animal tracks and unique forest wildflowers on the trail to Big Meadows.
16. Gazing over the forebodingly named — yet scenically beautiful — Never Summer Mountain Range from Farview Curve on Trail Ridge Road.
17. Visiting the Shadow Mountain Lookout Tower, the only wildfire lookout tower in the national park (and what a view it has!).
18. Absorbing the scenery and serenity by sitting in complete quiet on a rock. Wait long enough, and you may see wildlife coming by!
19. Hiking up the Colorado River Trail in mid- to late June to see baby bighorn sheep frolicking on the cliffs.
20. Watching the sunset cast an alpenglow on Mount Craig above Grand Lake.
21. Seeing the seemingly infinite view from Rock Cut on Trail Ridge Road.
22. Reading a copy of Rocky Mountain National Park, A 100 Year Perspective by Enos Mills and John Fielder.
23. Spotting a moose among the willows and ponds in the Kawuneeche Valley.
24. Touching the gnarled bark of a bristlecone pine, one of the oldest living organisms on earth.
25. Taking a selfie on the Continental Divide at Milner Pass.

On Repeat Visit

26. Visiting in late September when crowds dissipate and the aspen foliage is at its peak.
27. Birdwatching in the Kawuneeche Valley, where hummingbirds and great horned owls can be seen.
28. Cross-country skiing in the Kawuneeche Valley.
29. Touring the Alpine Visitor Center to gain a unique perspective on life in the alpine tundra.
30. Fishing for native cutthroat trout on Tonahutu Creek in Big Meadows (note: all fishing is catch and release in the park).
31. Starting high and staying high with a panoramic walk along Tombstone Ridge on the Ute Trail.
32. Learning about the park's unique ecosystems at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.
33. Being among the first motorists of the season to cross Trail Ridge Road when it opens in May — the sight of driving through massive snow banks in early summer is utterly surreal.
34. Enjoying story time for kids at the Fall River Visitor Center, where kiddos learn about the park's critters from a ranger-read series of stories.
35. Watching the young ones earn a park badge as part of the one-hour Junior Ranger sessions at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.
36. Reading Adventures of a Nature Guide & Essays of Interpretation by Enos Mills, founding citizen of the park.
37. Touring the historic Holzwarth Ranch and Homestead with a ranger in the park's western end.
38. Witnessing the wonders of the galaxy through a telescope from Harbison Meadow with a ranger-led stargazing tour.
39. Enjoying a mid-summer picnic at Lake Irene.
40. Viewing the 2,000-foot deep chasm of Forest Canyon from the Forest Canyon Overlook on Trail Ridge Road.
41. Learning about the park's insect life with your kids at the "Come Bug a Ranger" program at Holzwarth Ranch.
42. Taking a time-lapse photo of rushing rapids at Cascade Falls northeast of Summerland Park.
43. Enjoying the dramatic Rocky Mountain landscape under a silvery full moon.
44. Look for mushrooms during mushroom season — late July to August — on any of the park's forested trails (just don't pick them; it's prohibited in the park).
45. Visiting the Grand Lake Cemetery and looking upon the historic headstones. It's one of the only cemeteries in a national park.

Deep Into the Backcountry

46. Summiting 12,007-foot Mount Craig for the best view of Grand Lake.
47. Backpacking to Timber Lake in the park's less-visited western backcountry, and pitching a tent at the Snowbird Campsite (reservations required).
48. Enjoying Grand Lake's most stunning — and vigorous — hike: the route past Adams Falls to Lone Pine Lake, Lake Verna and Spirit Lake.
49. Seeing some of Colorado's largest trees in the Bowen Gulch Trail.
50. Finding unparalleled solitude — and perhaps spot a pine marten or bobcat tracks — near the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre River, just below Milner Pass.
51. Cross-country skiing the Valley Trail near the park's Grand Lake entrance.
52. Climbing to Thunder Pass, an alpine ridge nestled in the northern sector of the Never Summer Mountains, and gazing down on Michigan Lakes and the Nokhu Crags.
53. Exploring the empty and quiet backcountry on snowshoes on the East Inlet Trail.
54. Backpacking to Parika Lake in the Never Summer Wilderness, preferably in fall when the area's elk begin to bugle.
55. Dunking your hat to cool off beneath the roaring cascade of Granite Falls.
56. Taking a well-deserved nap on the shores of Lake Verna.
57. Surveying almost the entire park from atop Flattop Mountain, a summit reached at the end of the North Inlet Trail.
58. Discovering two of the park's most remote and beautiful alpine lakes — Lake Nokoni and Lake Nanita — located 9 miles up the North Inlet Trail.
59. Finding solitude and plenty of small brook trout deep in the backcountry at Haynach Lakes.
60. Reserving any of these underrated backcountry campsites on the Never Summer side of the park — Valley View, Dutch Town or Stage Road.

Ways to Celebrate the Park

61. Attending the Wonder of the Wild II photography exhibit at the Grand Lake Gallery, September 4, 2014.
62. Hiking the Ute Trail with a naturalist.
63. Attending the Paint Something Grand workshop for artists in Grand Lake, September 21-30.
64. Listening in to the Centennial Speaker Series with naturalist writer Mary Taylor Young at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, September 26, 2014.
65. Acquiring a copy of the 100th anniversary coloring map for your youngest child to learn about the park's natural history — available at the Grand Lake Chamber and Visitor Center.
66. Bringing your taste buds to the Trappers Wild Game Culinary Affair in Grand Lake, September 26–27.
67. Getting your spook on at the Wilderness, Wildlife and Wonder Halloween held on October 26 at the Grand Lake Community House.
68. Bringing your art sensibilities to the Wonder of Art from the Park showcase from November 11 to January 11, 2015 at the Village Center in Grand Lake.
69. Kicking off the holiday season with the folks of Grand Lake at the Wonder of Christmas event, November 28.
70. Taking the heritage tour of the Sisters of Courage, guided by a descendent of the brave women who settled in the area before it was deemed a national park.
71. Kicking off the new year with fireworks over Grand Lake on New Year's Eve.
72. Learning about the area's history at the Kaufman House Museum Centennial Exhibit.
73. Gaining an appreciation for Grand Lake's long-lasting love of art and architecture with the Art and Architecture Home Tour, June 20, 2015.
74. Joining Granby in the big celebration of Rocky Mountain National Park on July 4, 2015, including the best small town parade and a party in the park.
75. Watching the Vintage Model T Tour coming through Grand Lake on August 24-25, 2015 and staying at the historic Cottage Court Motor Court, just like tourists did 100 years ago.
76. Being inspired by the "Wonder of God's Glorious Creation" service at Timber Creek Campground on August 30, 2015.
77. Attending the re-dedication of the park at the Holzwarth Historic Site on the day before the park's 100th anniversary, September 3, 2015.

Once-in-a-Lifetime Ways to Enjoy the Park

78. Getting married at Harbison Meadow Picnic Area, one of a handful of places within the park where you can acquire a special-use permit to host your nuptials.
79. Strolling the entire 30-mile park segment of the Continental Divide Trail — a 3,100-mile trail that runs from Canada to Mexico and weaves its way through the national park.
80. Being among the lucky few to see male bighorn sheep butting heads and locking horns during the fall rut season.
81. Cycling from Grand Lake to Estes Park and back again over Trail Ridge Road.
82. Viewing the park's many peaks and valleys from a hot air balloon launched over Grand County (note: balloon flights do not go over the park).

And Around the National Park…