Self, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Self, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Know Before You Go: Shaka Guide's Rocky Mountain National Park Tour


rocky mountain tour map

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park is about so much more than the Rocky Mountains.

It’s a huge park spanning over 400 square miles, that’s home to diverse wildlife, numerous scenic overlooks, over 350 miles of trails, and rich human history.

On Shaka Guide’s Rocky Mountain National Park Tour, you’ll make over 30 stops as you weave your way to the town of Grand Lake. 

Because of the park’s high altitude, extreme weather, and distance from resources, there are things you need to know before you go.

And we’ve gathered the important info right here for you! 

Start Planning

curve road during snowSarbjit Bahga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

  • This tour takes 4 to 6 hours to complete. And much longer if you decide to do strenuous hikes. 
  • In the park there’s one seasonal cafe at the Alpine Visitor Center, and no gas. Stock up on necessities before arrival
  • The tour begins in Estes Park and ends in Grand Lake.
  • The intro track starts a few miles from the park’s entrance. Make sure to turn the app on so you don’t miss anything.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park is open 24 hours. 
  • Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in fall, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 in winter.
  • Fall River Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round.
  • Alpine Visitor Center is open Memorial Day through mid-October, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Moraine Park Discovery Center is open spring through fall, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Kawuneeche Visitor Center is open summer and fall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., winter and spring from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays. 
  • Sheep Lakes Information station is open year-round, 24 hours. 
  • Entrance to the park is $30 per vehicle.
  • From May through October, visitors need a Timed Entry Reservation to enter, $2. Learn more here
  • Trail Ridge Road is closed seasonally and opens depending on weather conditions.
  • Before visiting the park, call 970-586-1222 to check weather conditions.

What to Expect

To Get an Early Start

Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular park. In 2021 it had nearly 4.5 million visitors. And that means crowds!

So in peak season, it’s best to get there early for the least crowded trails and parking. We’re talking 6 am or so!

But if you book the Timed Entry Permit we mentioned earlier, you can reserve various time slots throughout the day. 

To Spend 4-6 Hours Exploring

If all you plan to do is drive from the park’s eastern entrance in Estes Park to Grand Lake, it’ll take around two hours.

Shaka Guide’s tour through the park should take around 4 to 6 hours if you make all of the stops and explore some of the shorter hikes.

Naturally, if you take longer hikes or spend more time at stops, it’ll be longer. Remember, where you stop and for how long is up to you! 

To Be Active

tourists walking in the mountainsTundra Communities Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park

This park has over 350 miles of hiking trails. So take your pick! On this tour, we recommend a handful of the shorter, easier hikes.

But from the trail guide, you’ll pick up, you can choose what looks good to you. Either way, you’ll be moving around. 

To Try Local Goodies

Unless you get a snack at the Trail Ridge Store when it’s open in season, there’s no food within the park.

So check out the food scene in Estes Park and Grand Lake. 

download rocky mountain national park

To Drive on Paved and Unpaved Roads

Trail Ridge Road stakes its claim to fame as the highest-elevation paved road in any national park.

Meanwhile, Fall River Road is a one-way uphill, primarily gravel road laden with sharp switchbacks.

There are NO guardrails along this road that climb from 8,000 feet elevation to over 12,000.

To Learn 

rocky forest in rocky mountain national parkNational Park Service Digital Image Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rocky Mountain National Park has two main topics of interest, that is history and geology.

You’ll learn about human history, including Native Americans, homesteading settlers, and the booming tourist scene spearheaded by city slickers.

The tour will also explain the diverse geological features in the park and what created them.


While inside the park, you’ll only need to budget for a snack and coffee at the Trail Ridge Store.

But remember to budget for supplies you might buy before arrival, like food, water, and sunblock.

  • $30 park entry fee
  • $20-$25 per person for lunch in Estes Park or Grand Lake
  • $5 for adult admission to the Kauffman House Museum in Grand Lake; under 12, free
  • $5 for adult admission to the Estes Park Museum; under 18, free
  • $10-$20 for souvenirs at Beaver Meadows or Kawuneeche visitor centers

Safety Information 

  • Hiking Safety: Bring Water, don’t hike alone, stay away from ledges.
  • Driving Safety: Follow posted speed limits, stay on roads rated for your vehicle, be prepared for narrow roads and switchbacks, keep an eye out for wildlife.
  • Weather Safety: Keep an eye on the sky for thunderstorms and check with a ranger about avalanche potential during your visit. Check weather conditions beforehand for lightning and thunderstorms.
  • Fire Safety: Do not walk off-trail in burned areas.
  • Wildlife Safety: Never try to approach any animal, especially a bear or mountain lion.

Start Packing! 

mountain with stream of river belowNational Park Service Digital Image Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s our packing list. But feel free to add anything you’ll need on the tour. 

  • Hiking Shoes
  • Hiking Clothes
  • Windbreaker
  • Plenty of Water
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and hat
  • Lunch and snacks
  • Cash
  • Car Charger *Very Important*
  • Phone Mount
  • First Aid Kit

Leave No Trace

When you visit a National Park, you’ll eventually come across the phrase “leave no trace.” It is important to leave an area exactly as you found it.

We can enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park because of efforts to preserve its natural beauty so let’s do our part.

At Shaka Guide, we promote ethical and responsible tourism. Please, pick up your trash, respect plant and animal life, and keep yourself safe, too.

Leave no trace of your visit behind so future generations can continue to enjoy our wonderful National Parks.

Like this article? Share it on Pinterest!

know before you go in rocky mountains pin

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.
For more detailed information to help you plan, check out our Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary.

download rocky mountain national park


Best Things To Do in Rocky Mountain National Park

Camping in Rocky Mountains National Park

Top Hikes in Rocky Mountains National Park

Scenic Views in Rocky Mountains National Park

Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park



shaka guide app qr code

Download The Shaka Guide App

Get The
Shaka Guide App