Sarbjit Bahga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sarbjit Bahga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shaka Guide's Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary



Rocky mountain national parkNPS Natural Resources, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Rocky Mountain National Park covers over 400 magical square miles of Colorado’s raw land and majestic mountains. That means it’s bigger than New York City!

It’s also home to over 350 miles of hiking trails, ranging from short and sweet, to traversing snowy summits for days.

You’ll find:

  • scenic overlooks
  • different ecosystems
  • aspen forests
  • lakes, and
  • lots of wildlife!

Yup, that means moose, elk, bighorn sheep, birds, and small mammals. There are also over 140 species of butterflies in the park.

That’s more than most states have. But it’s more than a naturalist’s dreamland.

The park also has a deep human history, from Native Americans to the first homesteaders, and even a once-booming tourist industry! 

Shaka Guide’s Rocky Mountain National Park tour lists all the best things to see and do. But, you’ll still lead the way.

That’s because you’re free to make the stops you want and pass the ones you don’t. You’re on no one’s time but your own. 

rocky mountain national park tour map

With over 30 stops, this tour will take about four to six hours to complete.

That’s around two hours of driving, with extra time to get out and explore.

The tour begins in Estes Park just outside the park’s eastern entrance, and cruises west to Grand Lake.

There, you’re free to head back the way you came or keep going west. But we recommend exploring Grand Lake first.

Important Information

Rocky Mountain National Park Gets crowded! In fact, so crowded that from late May through mid-October, you need a Timed Entry Permit Reservation to get in.

There are two different options that you could do or don’t, including Bear Lake Road. If you’re visiting in the off-season, you’ll have much more freedom with entry. 


1. Estes Park

estes park with log cabin near a riverResort in Estes Park / Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This beautiful town is the place to stop before your trip.

There’s one seasonal cafe and no gas in Rocky Mountain National Park, so make sure to stock up on all the supplies you need before you get there.

There are numerous picnic areas in the park, so keep that in mind when shopping.

Estes Park has plenty of shops and gas stations, and if you’re coming from farther away, you’ll have even more options. 

2. Beaver Meadows Visitor Center

view from beaver meadows visitor center

Approximate Time: 10-15 minutes

Here’s a perfect place to pick up a trail map.

It’s chock full of information that’ll help you decide which trails are right before you.

It also has park maps, bathrooms, gifts, and souvenirs. 

3. Moraine Park Discovery Center

brown house with american flag pole

Approximate Time: 10-15 minutes

This is a wonderful place to learn about the park’s geology and history. In fact, the building itself has quite a historical significance.

It’s the last standing building that was part of the Moraine Park Lodge, a place popular with tourists when the park was a popular vacation destination. 

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4. Bear Lake Trail 

Approximate Time: 15 minutes-2.5 hours

At the Bear Lake Trailhead, you’ll have the option to hike several different trails.

The quickest, and most popular, is the Bear Lake Trail which takes around 15 minutes.

But there are others that range from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours. 

5. Glacier Gorge Trailhead

lake with pine trees and mountainMills Lake, in Glacier Gorge, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Like most trailheads in the park, this one also offers access to several different trails.

Many are long though! If you’re up for an easy, just over a three-hour hike, we recommend the Glacier Gorge Trail. It’s popular for birding and camping. 

6. Bierstadt Lake

lake with pine treesShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Now we’re stepping it up to a moderately challenging trail. Just over three miles long, this trail is popular for snowshoeing, horseback riding, and of course, a gorgeous lake. 

7. Horseshoe Park Viewpoint

mountains with grasslands belowShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

What gives this valley its name is the glacial melt that carved it into the shape of a horseshoe millions of years ago.

Today, it’s home to spacious meadows that attract wildlife. 

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8. Sheep Lakes Information Station

Approximate Time: 15-30 minutes

As the name suggests, here you’ll find park information and exhibits.

It’s located right by the four beautiful Sheep Lakes.

It’s also a popular spot for bighorn sheep and elk. 

9. Alluvial Fan Trail

rocks below a mountainShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 10 minutes

What’s an alluvial fan, you ask?

Well, it’s where water cascades over boulders moved there by a massive flood in 1982.

It's a sort of waterfall.

This easy trail passes right by it.

10. Beaver Ponds Viewpoint

grass with riverLBM1948, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Here you can take a five-minute walk along a boardwalk through wetlands created by beavers.

Long ago beavers built a dam and organic material gathered behind it.

Once it collapsed, that soil flowed out, creating the wetlands there today. 

11. Hidden Valley Trail & Picnic Area


Approximate Time: 10-15 minutes

At this peaceful stop, you’ll find an easy, half-mile nature trail, picnic tables, and flush toilets.

It’s a lovely place to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh air. 

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12. Many Parks Curve Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Here’s another overlook! From this one, you’ll see:

  • Horseshoe Park
  • Moraine Park, and
  • Beaver Meadows

There are viewing platforms around the entire curve for different perspectives. 

13. Rainbow Curve Overlook

overview from rainbow curveShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

And another! This stop is a viewpoint above the treeline.

You’ll see unobstructed views of nearby peaks and valleys. 

14. Forest Canyon Overlook

range of mountains

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

A short walk through the tundra at the overlook affords visitors a view down into a river flowing through a canyon.

You’ll see Hayden Gorge and Gorge Lakes.

15. Tundra Communities Trailhead

stone formationsDaniel Mayer (Mav), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

This one-mile trail features interpretive signs about the flora and fauna that live in the tundra.

You’ll also get to see the Mushroom Rocks, boulders that are over a billion years old and they look like, well, you can imagine. 

16. Lava Cliffs Overlook

green mountain

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

The cliffs you’ll see from here are made of the only volcanic rock in the park.

They’re part of the Never Summer Mountain Range and are actually the park’s youngest. 

17. Gore Range Overlook

snowy mountains overview

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Here you’ll see awesome views of the Gore Range, the Never Summer Mountains, and the flat top of Longs Peak. 

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18.  Alpine Visitor Center

   outside of a visitor center ina snowy terrain

Approximate Time: 15-30 minutes

At the highest elevation visitor center in any national park, you’ll find a seasonal cafe and the usual offerings from a place like this.

This is the only place where you can grab a bite to eat in the park. There are also epic views from the nearby Alpine Ridge Trail.

19. Medicine Bow Curve

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

From this gorgeous overlook, you’ll see the Medicine Bow Mountains, La Poudre River, and Wyoming on a clear day. Keep an eye out for wildlife too. 

20. Milner Pass

continental divide signboardMyth010101 at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

You’ll stand right on the Continental Divide here. It’s also home to the Ute Trailhead and views of Poudre Lake. 

21. Lake Irene Picnic Area

 lake with pine treesShutterstock Image

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

This is home to a half-mile loop around Lake Irene. Across the street from there is Sheep Rock, where bighorn sheep like to sunbathe. 

22. Farview Curve Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

This overlook lies at 10,000 feet elevation! It offers views of Kawuneeche Valley, the Colorado River, the Never Summer Range, and Jackstraw Mountain. 

23. Colorado River Trailhead

Approximate Time: 30 minutes

As usual, there are several trails here to choose from, ranging from easy to strenuous. We recommend the Colorado River trail.

24. Beaver Creek Picnic Area

picnic area with mountain overview

Approximate Time: 5-15 minutes

During fall, it’s common to see elk run here. It has tables, toilets, and fire grates.  

25. Beaver Ponds Picnic Area

Approximate Time: 5-15 minutes

Another picnic area! You’ll find it offers great bird watching, two ponds, tables, and toilets. 

26. Holzwarth Historic Site

holzwarth historic site signboardSarbjit Bahga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 5-15 minutes

Originally homesteaded by early settlers, this now offers a 1.5-mile stroll around the land. Some original structures are still standing. 

27. Bowen Mountain & Colorado River Overlook

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

As the name suggests, this roadside overlook offers views of Bowen Mountain and the Colorado River. 

28. Bowen Baker Trailhead

Approximate Time: 5 minutes

Trailheads of different levels can be found here. Even if you don’t hike, it’s a wonderful place to spend some time.

There’s a gorgeous meadow, picnic tables, and bathrooms. 

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29. Coyote Valley Trailhead

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

This is an easy, riverside, one-mile trail that’s wheelchair-accessible and stroller-friendly. 

30. Bowen Gulch Trailhead

Approximate Time: 5-10 minutes

Since this trail is 15 miles long, the attraction is walking along the river and exploring this beautiful area.

Take a stroll along part of it and turn back when you’re done enjoying the beautiful scenery. 

31. Harbinson Meadows

plain view of meadowsinkknife_2000, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Originally homesteaded by two sisters, today this area is a gorgeous meadow with picnic tables. It’s also a popular place with wildlife. 

32. Kawuneeche Visitor Center

Approximate Time: 20 minutes

What’s unique about this visitor center is it has a Rocky Mountain Conservancy Bookstore.

So if you saw or heard about something today you want to learn more about, here’s an opportunity. 

33. End Point - Grand Lake

So you made it through Rocky Mountain National Park and now you’re in Grand Lake!

There’s still more to see and enjoy in this quaint town.

Food ranges from simple to high-end, and there’s even a museum and historical society.

Of course, there’s also that beautiful lake! So be sure to explore at least a little more before leaving town. 

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Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Rocky Mountain National Park Tour!

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.

Ready to explore Rocky Mountain National Park with Shaka Guide? Here’s everything you need to know before you go!


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


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