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Rocky Mountain National Park: Where To Stay & Things To Do

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Have you ever traveled to a popular US destination, and had trouble finding the perfect place to stay? Last year, we traveled to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and had one of the most difficult times finding a nice place to stay in our RV. Of course, we did not have reservations (which was a mistake), and we were visiting during peak season (another mistake). Whether you are staying in an RV Campground, AirBnB, or hotel, make reservations ahead of time if you are planning to explore Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado has some of the most amazing campgrounds, free camping, state parks, and National Park campgrounds. However, deciding where to stay and when to go may prove to be difficult. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in the US. According to U.S. News & World Report, June – September is the best time to visit the Rocky Mountains; however, during the peak seasons, the park will be more crowded, there will be more traffic going in and out of the park, and places to stay will be harder to find. 

Review Of Pinewood Reservoir RV Campground

We found a small county park, Pinewood Reservoir, near Loveland, CO. The trip up the mountain to the reservoir was not for the faint of heart, but we made it. This campground is managed by Larimer County and requires fees and camping permits.

We paid $9.00 per night for our vehicle pass, plus $32.00 per night for our campsite. There were about 20 RV sites at the park, and the only amenity offered was 30/50 amp electricity. There were several potable water spigots, but no dump station. All sites offered great views of the reservoir; however, some were not too level.

There was no cell connectivity, so expect to drive over the mountain or go into town if you need to get a little work done. Even though there was a fee to stay in the park (which was a little high, in our opinion), we would definitely stay here again!

Pros:

  • Even though it is a Colorado campground, it wasn’t crowded and we still felt like we were off-grid.
  • Close proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, and Estes Park, CO.
  • All sites offer amazing views of the reservoir.
  • The reservoir offers fishing. (check information regarding permits).
  • Non-motorized boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc is allowed (no permits required).

Cons:

  • The cost was too high.
  • The only amenity offered was 30/50 amp electricity.
  • No Cell Service.
  • Some sites are not level and are hard to get into.

Fun Things To Do In Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its beautiful winter landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and many outdoor activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. We have visited several times during the winter, but have never experienced Colorado during the spring or summer. I never imaged how different the mountain views would look or how much I would love exploring when it wasn’t freezing outside!

Besides the considerable amount of outdoor activities to do in the winter months, there are just as many, if not more, fun things to do in the Rocky Mountains during spring or summer.

Hiking

Rocky Mountain National Park features 355 miles of backcountry wilderness and hiking trails. They range in difficulty level from easy (beginner) to difficult (expert) and have a variety of terrain, mountain and lake views, and wildlife photography opportunities. These are a few of our favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bear Lake

Roundtrip Length: 0.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 45 Feet
Highest Elevation: 9520 Feet

Bear Lake Trail is a highly visited trailhead. It features lake views and a forest atmosphere. This trail is only 0.8 miles roundtrip and is on easy terrain. You will see Spruce, Fir, and Aspen Trees, along with mountain wildlife that loves to visit the area. I recommend exploring this trail in the early morning, due to the popularity and large crowds during the peak season.

Photography Tip: About halfway, on the north side of the lake, stop to take in the views of Half Mountain and Longs Peak.

Chasm Falls Trail

Roundtrip Length: 2.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain:585 Feet
Highest Elevation:9131 Feet

Chasm Falls Trail is located off of Old Fall River Road, near Estes Park, Colorado. There is parking near the trailhead; however, it tends to be crowded during peak season. We had a difficult time trying to find a place to park near the trailhead so we decided to park at the Endovalley Picnic Area and hike the entire 2.8 miles. Chasm Falls Trail features a fairly easy terrain on a dirt road, and in the end, offers amazing views of Chasm Falls. 

Sprague Lake Loop

Roundtrip Length: 0.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 10 Feet
Highest Elevation Peak: 8700 Feet

Sprague Lake Loop Trail is perfect for the whole family and considered to be wheelchair accessible. The terrain is easy and has a well-marked path around the lake. There are several stops along the way to have a picnic or sit on a bench to take in all the amazing views. Sprague Lake Loop Trail is very popular during peak season and maybe a bit crowded. Plan to come early to avoid the large crowds.

Photography Tip: The morning light gives a perfect reflection of the Continental Divide and other mountain views on the large lake. Come early to get the best shots of the sunrise.

Cascade Falls

Roundtrip Length: 6.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain:430 Feet
Highest Elevation Peak:8811 Feet

Cascade Falls is a moderate level trail over several types of terrain. Along the trail, there are amazing meadows to view wildlife like elk, moose, and several breeds of birds. Once hikers get to the actual Cascade Falls, there are viewing areas to take in all the sights. Cascade Falls Trail is a landscape and wildlife photographer’s dream destination!

Scenic Drives

While visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park, we explored several hiking trails and drove the scenic Trail Ridge Road. This is a must-do! The Trail Ridge Road connects the east side (Estes Park, CO) to the west side (Grand Lake, CO) of the park. The 48-mile road crosses the Continental Divide, and is the highest paved road in the US, peaking at 12,183 feet in elevation.

There are several pull outs to stop and take in the spectacular scenery and a variety of wildlife. The day we went, there was a small traffic jam due to a herd of elk crossing the road. The road is closed during the winter and is only open during the summer months. It is also a popular tourist attraction, so plan for many cars and people along the way. 

Horseback Riding

  • Hi Country Stables – Hi Country Stables is located near Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park and takes reservations during the summer months. In 2021, they will begin taking reservations in mid-April.
  • Glacier Creek Stables – Glacier Creek Stables is located within Rocky Mountain National Park and begins taking reservations early summer.
  • Winding River Resort – Winding River Resort is located in Grand Lake, CO. It features cabin rentals, horseback riding and activities, and even ATV/Snowmobile rentals. The resort will reopen in Summer 2021, and definitely worth checking out.

Final Thoughts On Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park has a little bit of everything whether you are taking a trip as a family, couple, or going on a solo trip. There are tons of places to stay, great places to dine, and several outdoor activities. During the peak season, the park will be a little crowded, so be prepared for lots of cars, visitors, and traffic in and out of the park. Depending on the time of your you are visiting, reservations are a must. Plan ahead, do your research and make your reservations ahead of time.

This was one of my favorite travel destinations whether you are traveling in the winter, spring, or summer! Make sure you add Rocky Mountain National Park to your bucket list.

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Traci LeBlanc

After becoming a full-time nomad, I found my passion for travel, photography, and writing. By sharing our journey, I hope to inspire you to discover adventure....Live By Faith!

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