Itinerary: Weeklong Trip in Rocky Mountain National Park
With so much to see and do in Rocky Mountain National Park, you could spend your entire summer here. But just in case you can't get away for that long, we've put together our favorite ways to experience the park in just a week.
Know before you go: Be sure to check Rocky Mountain National Park’s current reservation requirements and make your reservation at Recreation.gov.
Day 1: Acclimate
On Rocky Mountain National Park's western side, Grand County's 5 towns range in elevation from 7,313 feet in Kremmling to 9,052 feet in Winter Park. Even if you're from the Mile High City, it's pretty important to spend your first day acclimating to the altitude.
Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your day, and enjoy the park at a slower pace.
Take a Drive
Acquaint yourself with Grand County and take a ride on the North Central Colorado Scenic Loop. This trail encompasses three scenic byways: the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic and Historic Byway, the Cache La Poudre/North Park Scenic and Historic Byway, and the Trail Ridge Road Scenic Byway.
Encompassing 360 miles of plains, foothills, mountain passes, river corridors, and quaint Rocky Mountain towns, this drive shows you the best of the area and gives you a taste of what your week in Rocky Mountain National Park will bring.
Grab a Bite
Make sure to stop along the drive in one of Grand County's towns to eat in quaint downtowns or off of historic boardwalks. Or bring a picnic and stop at one of the scenic overlooks off of Trail Ridge Road to take in more gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park views.
Stay a While
Search for a variety of lodging options in Grand Lake, the "Western Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park," for easy access to the park and all of Grand County's towns. Spend the evening relaxing an enjoying the accommodations at your selected retreat.
Day 2: Water
Our side of Rocky Mountain National Park offers the most accessible water in Colorado, and with more water comes more adventure.
Boating on Grand Lake
Start the morning with a hearty breakfast at one of Grand Lake's cafes overlooking the lake. Relax and take it easy before heading to the marina. Rent a sailboat or some kayaks for a leisurely afternoon on the water, surrounded by panoramic views of Rocky Mountain National Park. When you need a break from the sun, head back in to town for lunch.
Colorado River Adventure
Home to the Colorado River headwaters, Grand County offers some of the best rafting and kayaking in the area. From taking a challenging tour through Gore Canyon's Class IV and Class V rapids to having a relaxing float down the Upper Colorado River's Class I to Class III rapids, there are experiences for all skill levels. And with the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at Pumphouse, there's plenty of fun to be had until the sun goes down.
Day 3: Rocky Mountain National Park History
There's plenty of hiking, biking, and scenery to be had in Rocky Mountain National Park, but how much do you really know about the area? Established in 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park is the ninth oldest national park in the country. Take a day to learn more about it.
Kawuneeche Visitor Center
Drive back up into Rocky Mountain National Park from Grand Lake, but stop at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center (link to page on our website) before heading further into the park. Here, you can watch a 20-minute film on the park, learn about the Colorado River, and more. Open year round, the Kawuneeche Visitor Center is a great place to take in some more park wildlife views.
Want to find more visitor centers throughout Rocky Mountain National Park? View more here.
Historic Structures, Roads, and Trails
The National Park Service protects both natural and cultural aspects of Rocky Mountain National Park. Learn more about the park's historical places you can explore or events you can attend while you're in the area on the National Park Service's website.
You can also check out the Trail River Ranch Educational Center in the park for any programs that might be going on while your family is in the area. Some educational programs you might find include family fly fishing days, birding programs, and other youth programs. (link to Trail River Ranch Educational Center)
Hike to Shadow Mountain Lookout Tower
After having a picnic at a visitor center or at a scenic overlook, head back toward Grand Lake to have one final, up-close look at the park's history. A historical wildfire lookout structure, Shadow Mountain Lookout Tower is the only one of its kind in the park, and you can hike all the way to it.
The trailhead is located just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, between Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. A total of 10.2 miles, the trail will take you through a beautiful pine forest at a moderate hiking level. Make sure to bring plenty of water and your camera—you won't want to miss capturing the unbeatable views of Rocky Mountain National Park from the top of the tower.
Allow for about two hours to hike up and an hour and a half to hike down for the average hiker.
Head back into town to relax at dinner or possibly a local pub for the evening. Find dining options here.
Day 4: Get the Western Experience
Even older than Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand County is full of western history, and we have a variety of experiences to help you feel like a real cowboy for the day.
Visit the Grand County Museum
Head out to Hot Sulphur Springs, a smaller town on the Western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, where the Grand County Museum is located. Here, view the town's original courthouse, built in the 1800s, a blacksmith shop, a 150-year-old ranch house, and antique rail cars. Put yourself in the shoes of a cowboy from the past, and get a feel for what it might have been like.
Like experiencing history? More local historical sites and museums are open for visitors in Fraser, Grand Lake, and Kremmling.
Go Horseback Riding
All throughout Grand County, you can find places to go on a guided horseback riding tour of the area. Take in views of the Rocky Mountains from a new perspective. If you want a luxury Western experience, plan to stay at one of Grand County's Dude and Guest Ranches for a more immersive experience.
Attend a Rodeo
Check Grand County's event calendar for rodeos that might be happening while you're in town. Whether it's the Flying Heels Rodeo in Granby (link to event), the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo in Kremmling (link to event), or the High Country Stampede Rodeo in Winter Park (link), it's a quintessential Western experience you won't want to miss.
Day 5: Wildlife Viewing in the Park
Depending on the time of year you visit the park, there is plenty of wildlife to be seen. Look for about 60 types of mammals like moose, elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, coyotes, mule deer, and more; 280 species of birds; and 900 different plants. And with 265,769 acres of pure wilderness in the park, you can make a day of it.
One of the best ways to search for wildlife is on foot. With roughly 355 miles of maintained hiking trails within the park, your most difficult decision of the day will be which trailhead to take.
Visiting in the Fall? Make sure to head toward the Kawuneeche Valley to see what elk bugling is all about!
Stay the Night
Head over to one of the visitor centers in the park to reserve one of the 585 drive-in campsites within the park. Build a campfire, and relax as the night falls.
Day 6: Biking at Your Own Pace
After waking up at your campsite and exploring the area a little further, head back into town to rent some bicycles. While you can bike on the paved paths throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, no off-road mountain biking is available.
Depending on your group's energy level, spend the day leisurely gliding through the park to cover some more ground before the week is up, or head back into Grand County to visit some of the best mountain bike parks and trail systems in the area. Whichever you choose, you have a full day of exploring ahead of you!
Fun Fact: Winter Park is known as "Mountain Bike Capital USA"!
Lodging for Your Last Night
Find an amazing lodging option for you last night nearby. Search throughout Grand County for options from quaint cabins to luxurious hotels to make the most of your last night in the area.
Day 7: Relax and Rejuvenate
After a full week of go, go, go, it's important to wind down to get the most out of your Rocky Mountain National Park adventure.
Brunch and Shopping
Sleep in, then savor the morning with a leisurely breakfast at a local cafe. After breakfast, stroll along the town's main street to enjoy the quaint shops in the town. Maybe head over to the Grand Lake Brewing Company or the Winter Park Winery to enjoy the early afternoon.
Hot Sulphur Springs Resort
Head out to Hot Sulphur Springs to close out your Rocky Mountain retreat. Hot Sulphur Springs Resort is home to hot springs where the Ute Indians once bathed to heal mind, body, and spirit. Come soak in the same waters to heal yourself before heading home.
After your week of adventure, exploration, and rejuvenation on the Western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, you'll want to come back year after year.