-Head towards Boulder via U.S. 36. There’s a hill that you’ll drive up
once you’ve passed the towns of Broomfield and Lafayette. At the top, there’s a scenic vista parking area that gives you beautiful views of Boulder, the Flatirons, and the Rockies.
Once you’re in Boulder, stop for a bite to eat. Boulder has tons of great restaurants; personal favorites include The Med (Mediterranean food, obviously), Illegal Pete’s (try the chicken pesto burrito or the Big Fish), Hapa Sushi (Multiple Orgasm roll), and The Taj (fantastic Indian food and one of the few restaurants that offers both lunch and dinner buffets). If you’re in Boulder on a Saturday, take some extra time to check out the Farmer’s Market, which usually has over 100 vendors and is a local favorite.
-Continue on U.S. 36, to the town of Lyons. Here, you can buy elk,
buffalo, or beef jerky that is actually produced in Colorado.
The Oskar Blues brewpub, known for its Dale’s Pale Ale, is also located
-Continue on U.S. 36 towards Estes Park. Be sure to take in the view
as you descend from the forest into Estes Park. You’ll see the town, surrounded by tall, snow-capped peaks.
-You can enter RMNP by continuing on U.S. 36 or taking U.S. 34. U.S. 36 is
closer to the Bear Lake area but, in my opinion, U.S. 34 is more scenic. It takes you by areas that allow for better opportunities to view elk and bighorn sheep.
Old Fall River Road is more easily accessed from here, too.
U.S. 36 eventually ends and merges with U.S. 34, which becomes the main
road, aka Trail Ridge Road (see below for more info).
-Once you’ve explored the park (more info below), exit through the western side of the park, by Grand Lake. Take some time to explore Grand Lake.
-Continue on U.S. 34, then onto U.S. 40, then I-70 back to Denver. The
scenery along this route is gorgeous. You’ll drive by lakes, ski resorts, through the mountains, and cross the Continental Divide several times. As you drive out of the mountains towards Denver on I-70, you get beautiful views of the city and the Great Plains. (Please note that U.S. 40 is a winding mountain road and may cause some discomfort to those who are afraid of heights.)
BACKPACKING-Permits and information are available at two offices. There is a $20 administrative fee for permits issued during peak season periods. Call 970-586-1242, open seven days a week 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
On the east side of the park the Backcountry Office is located next to
the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. On the west side of the park the Backcountry Office is located in the Kawuneeche Visitor Center.
CAMPING-There are five drive-in campgrounds and one drive-in group camping area in the park. Three campgrounds, Moraine Park, Glacier Basin, and Aspenglen, take reservations, as does the group-camping area. Other park campgrounds are first-come, first-served, and fill on most summer days. There are no electric, water, or sewer hookups at any campsites.
The water is turned off in the winter at all year-round campgrounds. Drinking water is available at entrance stations and open visitor centers.
ENTRANCE FEE-$20 per vehicle and is valid for seven consecutive days, including the date of purchase.
WILDLIFE- It is pretty much guaranteed to see elk and deer, especially elk.
Moose are not as commonly seen but your best chances of seeing one is on
the western side of the park, in the Kawuneeche Valley. Bighorn sheep are abundant but harder to spot because they blend in so well with the surrounding rock. Marmots, pikas, and coyote inhabit the area but are also difficult to spot. Wild turkeys are also seen in the park.
ROUTES- Trail Ridge Road, aka U.S. 34, is one of ten of America's Byways and a national designated All American Road and the main road through the park.
It crests at over 12,000 feet and provides spectacular views. You’ll drive through lowland meadows and aspen groves, along rivers, through subalpine forest, and alpine tundra.
Old Fall River Road is a one-way, unpaved, one lane road that allows visitors to travel 11 miles up to the Alpine Visitor Center. The speed limit is only 15 MPH and there are no guardrails, so it is not recommended for those with limited
time to visit or have a fear of heights.
During the winter months, Old Fall River Road is completely closed. Trail
River Road is closed off at Many Parks Curve from mid-October through Labor
Day. During the fall months, great views of golden Aspen leaves can be seen from either road.
Alpine Visitor Center- Old Fall River Road ends at the parking lot of this visitor center and gift shop/café, which sits at the crest of Trail Ridge Road. Parking can be a hassle, especially during the peak season. The center is fairly large and has a good selection of souvenirs and a decent café menu.