As a Colorado local, I love visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in winter. The crowds are long gone and the snow adds a dynamic element to the landscape. Despite having less terrain open, there are still plenty of things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.
The Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter
When it comes to the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter, there are a few key things to know. In this guide you’ll find:
- A locally-curated list of what to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter
- Safety tips for visiting the park
- What to know about winter conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park
Part obscure sport, and part thrilling activity, ice climbing is taking Colorado by storm. Bundle up and strap on your crampons for a fun-filled day climbing chandeliers made of ice. Hire a guide (I recommend Mountain Guides Colorado), or head out on your own ice climbing adventure (experienced climbers only. Ice climbing is a unique way to experience Rocky Mountain National Park in winter.
Go for a Winter Snowshoe or Hike
Some of the best winter hikes in Colorado are found in Rocky Mountain National Park. When it comes to snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park winter is top-notch! Hit the trails from December through March for the best snow.
Local Tip: Rangers lead free snowshoe hikes throughout the winter, check with the ranger program to learn more.
Sled at an Abandoned Ski Resort
Did you know that there is an old ski resort in Rocky Mountain National Park? Hidden Valley is an only resort that operated in the park until 1992. Today you can skin and backcountry ski the trails, have a snowball fight or go sledding at the remnants of the park.
Watch a Sunrise with Some Hot Cocoa
If you just need to get out of town, set the alarm early and enjoy a sunrise view. You can opt to hike to the famous Dream Lake or you can simply park at the Many Parks Overlook (right before the Trail Ridge Road closure gates) for this winter activity in Rocky Mountain National Park. Don’t forget to pack the coffee and cocoa!
When it comes to seeing wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park, winter is still a great time of year. The animals stay active, despite the freezing temps. You’ll likely find lots of elk herds at lower elevations. Ptarmigans often bathe in the snow during the early morning light. It’s truly a beautiful sight to behold.
Cross Country Ski Trail Ridge Road
Trail Ridge Road closes in the winter, but don’t worry, you can still go backcountry and cross country skiing along one of Colorado’s most scenic roads. Pack plenty of snacks and be prepared to grin like a child with all of the epic beauty along this classic cross country ski route.
Safety Tips for Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter
Unlike the summer, there are a variety of safety hazards to worry about. First and foremost, Colorado has a very dangerous snowpack and is susceptible to avalanches. Don’t venture into the backcountry without previous avalanche experience. If you don’t have any, you can still visit the park, just ask the rangers where it is safe to visit.
Other important safety factors include:
- Take a headlamp. The days are short and you don’t want to get caught out in the dark.
- Bring plenty of snacks and water. The cold, dry air makes you thirsty and you burn more calories in winter.
- Pack extra layers. The park is typically quite windy in the winter, so you’ll want to protect your body from the biting cold.
Things to Know About Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter
Enjoying Rocky Mountain National Park in winter takes a little bit of pre-planning. Here’s a little bit of local insight for visiting the park from November through February.
- Trail Ridge Road closes in the winter. This means that the east and west side of the park are cut off from each other. Plan accordingly.
- The Bear Lake Parking Lot will still fill up this time of year, plan to be at the lot before 10 am if you want to park. Parking on the side of the road is prohibited.
- The bus system does not run in the winter, so again, arrive early!
Plan Your Trip to Colorado Like a Local with These Amazing Resources:
- Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park
- Tips for visiting Colorado (coming soon)
- The Ultimate List of Things to Do Besides Ski in Colorado this Winter
- Amazing Colorado Hot Springs to Soak in this Winter (coming soon)
So who wants to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in winter? *raises hand* I know I love making a few trips out to the park each winter.