The Absolute Best Time to Visit Estes Park

Every year, millions of people come to Estes Park to explore the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding scenery. If you’re looking for the best time to visit Estes Park, Colorado, you’ll want to think about what you’d like to get out of your experience.

Estes Park is a year-round destination, filled with exciting and amazing adventures suitable for different seasons. There is a distinct busy season when both Estes Park and nearby Rocky Mountain National Park are stuffed with visitors. You may want to brave the crowds if you’re looking to visit the park during the stunning summer and fall months, but you may prefer seeing the area when things are less packed with people.

If you’re looking to discover how to visit Estes Park, Colorado like a local, not a tourist, then you’re in the right place. I’ve lived in Colorado for over 12 years and frequently visit Estes Park and the surrounding areas. As a local, I’ve learned how to experience the beauty of Estes Park any time of year without sitting in a sea of people. So let me spill the secrets to visiting Estes Park.

About this Guide to the Best Time to Visit Estes Park

Inside this guide to the best time to visit Estes Park, Colorado you’ll find:

  • The absolute best time to visit Estes Park, Colorado
  • How to beat the crowds at Estes Park
  • Tips for visiting Estes Park during the different season
  • When to visit Estes Park for popular activities
best time to visit estes park colorado

When is the Absolute Best Time to Visit Estes Park, Colorado?

For the perfect blend of excellent weather, stunning scenery, and open attractions you’ll want to visit Estes Park from mid-June through late September. During this time of year, hot highlights like Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, are fully open, the weather is generally warm and pleasant (aside from the monsoon thunderstorms that roll in every afternoon during July and August), and the scenery is stunning.

However, June through September is also the absolute most popular time to visit Estes Park. Expect full crowds even during the week throughout this time. Arguably July and August are the most crowded – since this is when many families take a summer holiday. But thanks to the close proximity to Denver, locals swarm the park for fall colors every mid to late September.

Local Tip: If you want to beat the crowds, then you’ll want to be up well before the sun. Plan activities such as hikes, to be at the final destination of your hike before sunrise if you want solitude. In downtown Estes Park, eat earlier or later to avoid the rush.

The Best Time to Visit Estes Park Without the Crowds

Many people use Estes Park as a home base for exploring Rocky Mountain National Park – the country’s fourth busiest national park. With so many people coming and going, finding a time to visit Estes Park without the crowds can be tough.

Expect weekends throughout the year to have an uptick in crowds, particularly during summer, early fall, and around the holidays.

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds in Estes Park, plan on visiting between mid-October through early May. A lot of the main attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park, such as Trail Ridge Road and hikes prone to avalanche danger, close during this time.

Estes still sees folks over the weekends, so a weekday visit during this time really gives you some solitude. If you are visiting during the busy season, getting started before sunrise will usually put you ahead of the main tourist slug and keep you away from crowds with the exception of downtown and crowded trailheads.

Estes Park in the Summer

Summer is the season of life in Estes Park. The temperature sees highs in the mid-70s to 80s and the lows are in the upper 40s and 50s. It’s the best time of year to camp near Estes Park.

Keep in mind, precipitation totals are quite high, especially during the mid-June to early August monsoon. Expect heavy, violent (but quick) afternoon thunderstorms during this time.

August typically marks wildfire season. Unfortunately, these events are becoming more and more common. If there aren’t many fires in Colorado, smoky skies can be quite common from wildfires in areas like California, Wyoming, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest.

Festivals and happenings: June Jazz Fest, June Estes Park Marathon, August Estes Park Wine Festival

best time to visit estes park

Visiting Estes Park in the Fall

Estes Park is one of the top fall destinations in Colorado. Since the peak fall colors in Colorado vary year to year, the best time to visit Estes Park for color displays can shift. Typically, the third to fourth week in September marks the peak aspen displays.

The crowds here are real, especially since the elk rut (when the male elks bugle their mating calls) is a popular fall attraction. Expect long lines of cars and busy streets.

Local Tip: Approaching elk and other wildlife is exceptionally dangerous. Stay at least 100 yards away, tourists get trampled every year and the threat is real.

The weather is generally dry and variable with highs ranging from the upper 69s to mid-40s. Lows range from the lower 40s to below freezing. Typically, the first snowflakes fall sometime in October. Trail Ridge Road will close for the season around that time.

Festivals and happenings: Elk Fest (September), Glow Parade (November)

Estes Park in the Winter

During the winter months, Estes Park becomes a snowscape that dreams are made of. The white-capped peaks hover over the town, creating a picture-perfect mountain scene. This is also the slow season. Many of the tourist shops close and the town of Estes Parks has more of a local vibe.

Many of the best hikes in Estes Park aren’t as accessible, since avalanches threaten throughout winter. But there’s still a lot to see and several of the top winter hikes in Colorado are located nearby.

The area becomes popular with those looking to enjoy snowshoeing, sleigh rides, ice climbing, and backcountry skiing.

Temperatures are cold and usually quite windy, although the sun is often shining. Expect daytime temperatures to cap at around 35 degrees and lows to be in the teens. Snow is quite common, but typically the streets are cleared quickly.

Festivals and happenings: January Estes Park Winter Festival

Why Visit Estes Park in the Spring

Springtime is a great time to visit Estes Park if you’re looking for a crowd-free experience. The temperatures are slowly rising, but early spring often feels very much like winter. The weather is very wild and variable with days in the 20s to the upper 50s and nights still below freezing.

It’s not uncommon to have a 60-degree day followed by a massive snowstorm. Trails typically aren’t snow-free until early to mid-June depending on the year (even longer for higher elevations). Trail Ridge Road won’t open until later in May or even June.

It’s a great time to visit Estes if you still want to enjoy winter without the frigid temperatures. If it’s a milder winter, you may be able to enjoy nearby hikes and fishing a little earlier in the spring. Rock walls in Lumpy Ridge also might be clear and dry.

Festivals and happenings: Bigfoot Days (April)

What’s the Peak Season for Rocky Mountain National Park?

With over 4 million visitors each year and growing, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top parks in the US. The park sees some form of crowds throughout the year, but the peak season for the park is from July through September.

Many of the top attractions like Trail Ridge Road, Long’s Peak, Emerald Lake, and the top hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park see huge crowds.

Local Tip: You’ll need an advanced reservation to visit Rocky Mountain National Park between May 28th and October 18th.

What’s the Best Time to Visit Estes Park for Hiking?

Hiking offers up one of the best ways to explore Estes Park and the surrounding areas. The good news is, you can hike year-round. In the late fall, winter, and early spring you may need snowshoes or microspikes for traction. Some trails may be extremely difficult due to snow conditions or very dangerous because of avalanche hazards so do your homework first.

If you want a hassle-free time to hike in Estes Park, then the mornings between June and October are the best times to head out on a hike. The wildflowers bloom in the alpine in late June and July, while mid to late September boasts beautiful fall color displays.

When Can You See Elk in Estes Park?

Spotting elk is Estes Park is extremely common throughout the year. In fact, the town has a resident heard that frequently hangs out right in the center of the action. Fall marks the elk rut, or when the male elk are competing to claim herds of females for mating. The rut runs from mid-September through mid-October and you can often hear the elk bugling their calls in the morning and evenings.

When to visit estes park

When to Visit Estes Park for Fall Colors

Fall colors typically peak between the third and fourth week of September. If it’s been a drier year, except the fall colors to come earlier in the year – between the second and third week of September. During this time, you’ll be treated to hillsides alit with color.

The Best Time to Visit Estes Park for Rock Climbing

Estes Park is home to some of the best rock climbing in Colorado. There are two distinct seasons for climbing in Estes Park. Alpine climbing is certainly a rugged adventure and most of the classic lines near Estes Park are in their prime in July and August. Just be sure to plan your route to avoid the afternoon storm threat.

Lumpy Ridge and other single and multi-pitch climbing areas in Estes Park are best in mid to late spring through early fall. Keep in mind, features at Lumpy Ridge and other areas close during the summer months for raptor nesting. Which routes close depends on where the birds decide to set up their rocky homes.

when to visit estes park

Visiting Estes Park for Wildlife Viewing

Estes Park is home to a tremendous diversity of wildlife. Your best chance at spotting animals is during the quiet morning and evening hours in the summer. When the trails and roads get busy, the animals flee to calmer pastures. You can spot bighorn sheep, ram, moose, bear, pika, marmot, and other creatures that call the mountains home.

When to Visit Estes Park for Fishing

From alpine lakes to fly fishing, if you want to cast your line, the best time to visit Estes Park for fishing is between mid-June and mid-October. Trout populations are bountiful. Just be sure to follow local guidelines and only fish in designated areas.

What Month Does Estes Park Get the Most Snow?

March and April are the snowiest months in Estes Park. Spring moisture brings wet winter storms that tend to dump the white stuff in storms that measure in 10’s of inches. Snow may melt quickly or it may linger well into summer depending on the conditions.

Additional Planning Resources

Planning a trip to Estes Park? Let me help you with these incredible local resources:

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Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure. She'd rather be dirty than done up.