With a full weekend to devote to the 265,769 acres of Rocky Mountain National Park, the possibilities are practically endless. But how do you make sure not to miss the best parts? We've made an itinerary to guide you through one version of a 2-day grand adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Wake up and get going. Grab a hot breakfast from one of Grand Lake's best restaurants before taking on the park for the day.
Take a hike. Shadow Mountain Lookout Trailhead is located just outside of the park, but it offers incredible views of the Rocky Mountain wilderness. The parking lot for this trailhead is located just outside of town to the south between Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake at 40°14'25.0"N 105°49'31.8"W.
The Shadow Mountain Lookout Trail is a total of 10.2 miles of moderate hiking, and the panoramic views from the tower are definitely worth the lengthy trek. Take your time to stroll through the pine forest to this historic wildfire lookout tower—the only one of its kind in the park.
Allow about two hours to hike up and an hour and a half to hike down from the lookout for the average hiker.
Grab some lunch. Head back into Grand Lake to fuel up for an afternoon of relaxing, scenic Rocky Mountain adventure.
Take a drive. Season permitting, driving up and back over the full length of Trail Ridge Road is one of the best Rocky Mountain National Park experiences you can have.
Stop along the way at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center. Here you can watch a 20 minute film about Rocky Mountain National Park to get yourself better acquainted with the history and splendor of this 100-year-old national park, get your bearings with the center's three-dimensional park map, and take in the unbeatable views from this beautiful center.
Make sure to stop at scenic spots such as Far View Curve to take in the beautiful wilderness of the Never Summer Mountain Range and at Milner Pass where you'll cross over the Continental Divide.
Take a break at the Alpine Visitor Center to learn more about the tundra that makes up one third of Rocky Mountain National Park, and stop along your drive to observe some of the unique flora such as sky pilot and alpine forget-me- nots that you can find above the timberline.
Watch for wildlife along the way as well—the park is full of hundreds of species of animals. Most notably, the Western side of Rocky Mountain National Park is a favorite habitat of elk. Watch them graze in the tundra along trail ridge road and snap a few photos from a safe distance. If you're lucky, you might even be visiting during elk bugling season!
Dine and Relax. Head back into Grand Lake for a relaxing dinner and stroll through the town's main street. After such a long day, you'll likely want to call it an early night and check in to your lodging accommodations to relax before another full day of Rocky Mountain Adventure.
Make it a late start. Grab a leisurely breakfast at your hotel or at one of the restaurants in town before heading out for a morning on Colorado's largest natural lake.
Sail away. Rent a kayak or sailboat for a day out on the water. From Grand Lake, you can see the towering, 12,000 ft. Mt. Craig and the wilderness of the "Western Gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park." Spend the morning learning a new skill or simply relaxing on the water.
If you're looking for a different type of on-the-water experience, spend the morning on the Colorado River instead. Fish, kayak, or whitewater raft, depending on your energy level. Learn more and view area outfitters here.
Fun fact: Including the Colorado River, Rocky Mountain National Park contains 476 miles of streams, rivers, and creeks with about 29 waterfalls and about 150 lakes.
Dry off. Head to town for a quick bite to eat. There are several places to dine near Grand Lake or the Colorado River—find your new favorite.
Learn something. Check out the Trail River Ranch Educational Center in the park for any programs or events that are going on while you're around. Some examples of what you might find include family fly fishing days, Birds of Kawuneechee Valley, youth programs and song writing. There's sure to be an event or activity the whole family can enjoy.
Ride into the sunset. Find an experienced horseback riding outfitter, and plan a sunset ride through the valleys of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Go out on the town. Get a bit to eat in Grand Lake's charming lakeside town, then experience their historic boardwalk with more than 60 shops, restaurants, and galleries before catching a show at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater if you can.
Although the park is extensive, you can experience so much adventure in just two days. Have a little longer? Check out our week-long Rocky Mountain Park itinerary to plan your extended trip. Only have time for a day trip? Check out our one-day itinerary here.
Whatever you choose, it's sure to take your breath away.
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