Itinerary: Winter Weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park
While most people visit Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer, they might be missing out on the park’s best time of year: winter. When the snow falls, the whole park is transformed into a winter wonderland. The views are stunning, there are plenty of opportunities to play in the snow, and you practically have the whole place to yourself. Experience it yourself with our two-day Rocky Mountain National Park winter weekend itinerary.
Know before you go: Be sure to check Rocky Mountain National Park’s current reservation requirements and make your reservation at Recreation.gov.
Friday Evening: Settling In and Getting Ready
To be close to the park, you’ll want to find accommodations in Granby or Grand Lake. Settle in, have dinner, and if you need to rent snowshoes or cross-country skis for the weekend, stop by Never Summer Mountain Products or On the Trail Rentals (snowshoes only) in Grand Lake to prepare yourself for a great weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Saturday: Introduction to the Park
Morning: After breakfast, check in at the Kawuneeche Valley Visitor Center to learn more about the park and get the latest on weather conditions and wildlife sightings. The rangers can also help you choose the best snowshoe trails and answer any other questions you have.
If the conditions are right, head out for a scenic drive on Trail Ridge Road. In the winter, the first 12 miles of the road are open from Grand Lake up to the Colorado River Trailhead. Give yourself time to stop at a few of the pull offs along the way and take in the breathtaking views of snow-packed peaks, broad valleys and lovely foothills. Mountains you’re familiar with in the summer take on a completely different mood during the winter months!
Afternoon: After having lunch in Grand Lake or Granby, return to the visitor center for a ranger-led snowshoeing or cross-country expedition. If you want to strike out on your own, consider venturing to the Holzwarth Historic Site, trekking the Green Mountain Trail to Big Meadows or exploring one of the other winter trails in the Kawuneeche Valley. There’s nothing like tromping along a trail in the quiet beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter.
Evening: Since the park gets dark pretty early in the winter, you’ll have plenty of time in the evening to soak in a hot tub at your hotel and then enjoy dinner and drinks in Grand Lake or Granby. Relax your Saturday away, and let your muscles rest after a long day of snowshoeing or skiing.
Sunday: Winter Wildlife Viewing
Morning: Start Sunday morning with sunrise views of Kawuneeche Valley and a wildlife trek on the Coyote Valley Trail or the Sun Valley Loop Trail. You’ll want to leave your accommodations about a half hour before sunrise. That will give you enough time to drive to the trailhead, strap on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and take in sweeping views of the valley and mountains from the beginning of the trail as the sun peeks over the horizon.
Continue along the trail and keep an eye out for wildlife that is sure to be active first thing in the morning. In the Kawuneeche Valley, you’re most likely to see moose, but you might also see elk, coyotes or red foxes. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll see a snowshoe hare, short-tailed weasel or ptarmigan, who all trade their brown summer coats for white ones in the winter.
Afternoon: Depending on how you’re feeling, you have a couple options for the end of your Rocky Mountain National Park visit. You could hit one last trail (with a ranger, if you like), or you could warm up with a cup of cocoa and then go shopping in Grand Lake, Granby or Winter Park before you drive home. Either way, you’ll be taking some unforgettable memories with you.