Rainbow Curve Overlook is One of the Most Stunning Spots in Colorado

Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by foxintheforest

There are lots of beautiful vistas in Colorado, but. the Rainbow Curve Overlook has to be towards the top of the list. With easy access right from Trail Ridge Road, this overlook delivers big views for little effort.

Nestled in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Rainbow Curve Overlook showcases some of the best views by road in the entire Centennial State.

If you’re looking for a local guide to the Rainbow Curve Overlook, you’re in the right place. Rocky Mountain NP is like a second home to me. I’ve visited countless times in my 15 years in Colorado.

About this Guide to Rainbow Curve Overlook

Inside this exclusive local guide you’ll find:

  • Info about where to find Rainbow Curve and the best time to visit
  • What to see at the overlook
  • Tips and tricks for visiting Rainbow Curve
  • Additional local resources for Rocky Mountain National Park

Where is Rainbow Curve Overlook?

You’ll find the Rainbow Curve in Rocky Mountain National Park along Trail Ridge Road. This u-shaped overlook is a little ways past the Many Parks Overlook – about 12.8 miles from the Beaver Creek entrance to the park (on the east side).

Map of Rainbow Curve Overlook along Trail Ridge Road near Estes Park.
Click here for the full map.

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit?

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most scenic roads in Colorado. As such, it’s quite a busy spot! You’ll undoubtedly want to visit Rainbow Curve when the road is open – typically from June through mid-October.

July and August are wonderful times to visit, as is mid-September when fall in Colorado comes to life. However, these are the most popular times to visit the overlook.

Sunrises here are a stunning affair – so if you’re looking to photograph the overlook opt to visit for sunrise or sunset.

Local Tip: Getting into Rocky Mountain NP before sunrise typically puts you one step ahead of the crowds – especially along Trail Ridge Road and if you’re visiting some of the best state parks in Colorado.

Is Rainbow Curve Open?

Rainbow Curve is closed from mid-fall through late spring. Trail Ridge Road closes at the Many Parks Overlook and isn’t maintained over winter. However, if you enjoy snowshoeing in Rocky or cross-country skiing, it is possible to go on foot, keep in mind that you’ll want to read and understand avalanche forecasts before heading out.

Timed Entry Permits for Rocky Mountain National Park

From May through October, timed entry permits are required to visit Rocky Mountain, National Park. You can reserve your timed entry permit in advance on a 30-day rolling basis. Weekends can fill up fast (with a small number of permits released 24 hours in advance). So be sure to plan ahead to get into the park!

Local Tip: It’s $30 to enter the park or free with an America the Beautiful Parks Pass. Timed entry permits are free.

Image courtesy of istock.

How High is Rainbow Curve Overlook?

Rainbow Curve sits at 10,875 feet above sea level. It’s not the highest viewpoint along Trail Ridge Road, but it’s got incredibly expansive views thanks to its position.

What to See

From the overlook, you get an expansive view of the Colorado Rockies. From here you can see famous landmarks including:

  • Alluvial Fan
  • Ypsilon Mountain (13,514 feet)
  • Mount Chiquita (13,069 feet)
  • Hagues Peak (13,560 feet)
  • And so much more!

Thunderstorms at Rainbow Curve

Late June through early August marks the monsoon season in Colorado. This means that dangerous, violent thunderstorms plague the mountains virtually every afternoon. Every year tourists get caught in these storms and people can die from lightning strikes.

Keep a close eye on the weather when you’re visiting Rainbow Curve (or in the mountains in general). High above the treeline, you won’t have any shelter aside from your car from the storms.

Fortunately, these violent storms tend to pass rather quickly. So if you are caught in the rain, simply wait in your car until the storm passes before you enjoy the overlook.

Image courtesy of istock.

Tips for Visiting the Rainbow Curve Overlook

Always be prepared when traveling into the mountains. Weather can change quickly, the sun is relentless, and the altitude can affect your body. Here are. a few local tips for visiting the overlook.

Pack sun protection. Sunscreen, sunhat, sunglasses, and even a sun shirt are all great items to have on hand at all times in the mountains.

Bring layers. Even in the dead of summer, the weather can be quite cold up high. Be sure to pack plenty of non-cotton layers, and a rain jacket when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.

Plan accordingly. There are 32 parking spaces and pit toilets at this overlook. During the busy days on summer weekends, this lot can (and will) fill up. The best way to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park is to get in before the sun comes up. You won’t regret the early alarm I promise!

More Local Insights for Rocky Mountain National Park

Wanna explore Rocky Mountain NP like a local? Here’s a look at a few resources you don’t want to miss.

Picture of Meg Atteberry
Meg Atteberry

Meg is a long-time Colorado local and outdoor industry professional. She's spent the last 15 years hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and canyoneering all over Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada in search of the best views. She's written for Outside Magazine, REI, Backpacker Magazine, and appeared on the Weather Channel.

Hi There!

Meg Atteberry standing on a mountain sticking her tongue out

Meg aka Fox is a 30-something who's born to explore. Toddler mom, queer, and neuro-spicy her favorite things to do are climb in the alpine and camp in the desert. Her mission is to get you out on your greatest adventure.