A Day in Rocky Mountain National Park

I have been to Colorado numerous times, four times to be exact and I have never been to Rocky Mountain National Park. My boyfriend and I are in Denver for a month’s visit last year ( 2020) and we decided to make a trip there.

This trip takes you to the “top of the world” in the park, filled with spectacular vistas and wildlife.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in Estes Park, Colorado and is considered to be one of the most majestic and breathtaking sights to behold in our country. Only about two hours northwest of Denver, it is home to Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s “fourteeners” (mountains that rise above 14,000 feet). The park has over 300 miles of hiking trails, crystal clear lakes, colorful wildflowers, towering mountains and abundant of wildlife.

We only had one day to spend in the RMNP. I was hoping we could hike and explore, but driving the park from east to west takes up a lot of time

If you only have one day like we did, you can still see a lot. There are a number of routes for driving from Denver. If you’re arriving from the more populated east side, you’ll pass through Estes Park, a gateway to RMNP. A must visit while you are in Estes Park is the majestic Stanley Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s “The Shining.” The Stanley Hotel was also featured in Dumb and Dumber as the upscale “Danbury Hotel.”

The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley. It was his gift to his lovely wife Flora, a western getaway from their Massachusetts life. We had some Elk sliders for lunch at the Whiskey Bar. You can try 1200 different whiskeys here, some of the most expensive whiskey flight cost $1900! There is also a creative cocktail menu to chose other drinks if you wish.

Keep in mind, there are quaint mountain towns just outside both entrances to the park. If you’re approaching the park from the west, you’ll drive past scenic Grand Lake. Here you will find many restaurants, shops and lake recreation.

After lunch we headed to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. The park ranger suggested to take the drive from east to west on Trail Ridge Road (Hwy 34). There are many sites to see while driving along Trail Ridge Road. There was an afternoon thunderstorm so we didn’t visit every single stop, but the ones we did stop at are listed below.

Rainbow Curve Overlook

This is a very beautiful overlook of the park. It was amazing to look down into the valley. Chipmonks abound too begging for food, however, there are signs not to feed them. Rainbow Curve Overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park provides fantastic views of Hidden Valley, Fall River, Horseshoe Park, Alluvial Fan and the Beaver Ponds, and several prominent mountain peaks.

Lava Cliffs

About 24.6 miles in, you will see the Lava Cliffs, which is another scenic of the high alphine overlooks. You can see the evidence of the Rocky Mountain uplift that began almost 70 million years ago. In the Lava Cliffs, you can see faulting and Precambrian Rock as a result of the geologic activity. A little further down this road is the highest point on the road 12183 feet.


Next stop on the road was Milner Pass/Continental Divide. The Continental Divide creates two different drainage paths when the snow melts. One side drains into the Atlantic Ocean and the other drains into the Pacific.

I liked the sign and the views. There is a trail that is part of the Ute trail and if you take the hike, it ends up at the alpine visitor center. In addition, this stop provides a great view of Poudre Lake and also one of several places you can hop on the Continental Divide Trail.


Our last stop on Trail Ridge Road was at the Holzwarth Historic Site, also known as Never Summer Ranch. This trail is about 1.3 miles roundtrip. In the early 1900s, John and Sophie Holzwarth owned 160 acres in the Kawuneeche Valley. They built their first cabin there in 1917, then proceeded to build more cabins and make this area a vacation spot called Holzwarth Trout Lodge.

Just beyond the parking lot is an old miner’s cabin, which was not part of the Never Summer Ranch. The cabin was built by Joseph Fleshuts in 1902. He abandoned the 160-acre homestead in 1911 and was never heard from again.


We continued down to Trail Ridge Road and out of the park and reached the Grand Lake area. This mountain town is also a wonderful place to stay if you don’t stay in Estes Park. We stopped for coffee and deserts at The Hub. There are also lots of activities in this area if you have some extra time!

Easy to moderate hikes

  • Alberta Falls
  • Emerald Lake
  • Adam Falls
  • Lily Lake
  • Sprague Lake
  • Cub Lake


The park has implemented new safety protocols in response to the virus.

Most important, RMNP is requiring reservations for entrance into the park.

( We saw Elks )

To make your reservations for Rocky Mountain National Park or to find more information, check out the NPS website.

To enter the park, you will make a reservation for a specific 2-hour window to come in and you can leave and return any time throughout the day after entering during your window. Be sure to reserve the passes as soon as you can.

If you any questions, leave a comment!


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