I’m wildly in love with mountains and cold weather, so it should come as no surprise that I was delighted to be welcomed with snow when we visited Rocky Mountain National Park last fall. We couldn’t have asked for better weather while there. Okay, okay, there was one really freezing moment where the chilly wind hit my face, and it felt like I had splashed my unprotected skin with icy-cold water. But, other than those quickly passing seconds, the weather was perfect.
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in fall (specifically, November) offered us the opportunity to explore landscapes at different stages between autumn and winter. At the lower elevations, we enjoyed typical (BEAUTIFUL) fall weather and scenery. At higher elevations, we got a sneak peek at winter. In fact, we got to enjoy a stroll in a real-life winter wonderland.
In addition to being gorgeous, the park was also fairly quiet and peaceful. I’ve heard the area gets absolutely bonkers during the warmer months. Thankfully, we didn’t have to deal with overcrowding issues. Even Bear Lake (a highly visited area inside the park) was peaceful. Don’t get me wrong, the parking lot was flooded with cars, but the actual hikes around the area were surprisingly uncrowded. Then again, it was incredibly windy, and it was snowing.
My Advice for Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Fall
+ Respect the land you are visiting and learn about its Native Caretakers, the Ute and Arapaho Peoples. Place to start reading: The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s website.
+ Stay in nearby Estes Park for a night or two to better get to know the area.
+ Keep in mind that visiting Rocky Mountain National Park means traveling to high-ish elevations. The entrances to the park sit at no lower than 7,860 feet. Popular areas, such as Bear Lake are at 9,475 feet. The elevations just keep climbing from there. Here’s a helpful chart to get a better idea of what the elevations are like. It’s important you’re aware of these elevation gains, especially if you are accustomed to being closer to sea level. You don’t want to ruin your experience at Rocky Mountain National Park by getting altitude sickness. However, if you do get sick, head back down toward a lower elevation, and you’ll likely feel better soon.
+ Exercise a few good practices to keep altitude sickness at bay. For example, stay at a lower elevation your first night in the area. We flew from sea level to Denver and then drove directly to Estes Park (7,500 feet), where we slept overnight. This worked well for us. We then entered the park and went to various elevations, never exceeding around 10,000 feet, though. Being that we only had a single night to acclimate to a higher elevation, I didn’t want push it beyond that. This was a lightning-fast trip for us, so I didn’t want to spend a single minute with a headache or dizziness. Additionally, it’s important to keep super hydrated. If you are typically sensitive to elevation changes, avoid all alcohol and highly caffeinated beverages for the first couple of days.
+ Be prepared for rain and snow and don’t let either get you down. The elements can really bring a lot of beauty to the scenery.
+ Avoid using the bathrooms at Bear Lake, as they are heavily used. (That’s putting it nicely.)
+ If you don’t see any animals, explore Estes Park at sunset. There’s a good chance you’ll see an elk or two around the lake.