Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most delightful gems of the Colorado scenery. You’ll find incredible views, wildlife, and amazing hiking trails.
Amidst the incredible views at Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, you’ll also find some incredible weather, at all times throughout the year. Whether you’re planning a day hiking excursion in the summer or the winter, you’ll want to prepare for extreme weather conditions at this beautiful national park.
A few simple tips will keep you dressed appropriately and prepared for hiking through all weather conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Check the Weather on the Rocky Mountain Website
At its crest, Trail Ridge Road is over 12,000 ft. Which is not only amazingly high (if you’re afraid of heights, maybe let someone else drive?), but also perfect for unpredictable weather patterns.
At elevations below 9,400 ft. in the Rockies, the temperatures are moderate and typically what you would expect for the time of year, warm in the summer and cold in the winter. When you get to higher elevations, like Trail Ridge Road, the weather can become quite unpredictable and you might even run into some snow in the summer.
Just look at this statement from the Rocky Mountain National Park website:
“The high country of Rocky Mountain National Park is noted for extreme weather patterns. Shaped by elevation, slope, and exposure, these patterns can change rapidly.”
Before hiking through all weather conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park, check the weather forecast on the park website. You can get an idea of what to expect for that time of the year and links to forecasts for the area. By knowing what to expect, you’ll be able to enjoy the magic of this weather (and stay warm!)
Note about altitude:
Elevations at Rocky Mountain can range from 7,500 to 12,000 ft. Be careful to acclimate to the elevation of the park and be on the lookout for any signs for altitude sickness. Drink a lot of water to prevent dehydration and wear sunscreen to block the UV rays, which are stronger in the mountains at high elevation.
Dress in Layers
It’s one thing to dress for the cold temperatures (and possible snowstorms), but the one weather factor I was unprepared for in my mid-October visit to the park was the wind. Within minutes, I went from a t-shirt to a t-shirt, a SmartWool pullover, a puffy jacket, a windbreaker, ear warmer, and knitted hat.
One minute it was blue skies and a few miles up the road it was snowing and the fog was so thick, you couldn’t see over the edge of the walkway.
So, you can probably tell that dressing in layers is important! You don’t want to be too warm and have to carry around a lot of extra clothing, but you also want to be prepared for the higher elevation cold temperatures and wind.
A windbreaker is a MUST, preferably one that you can fold up and put in your bag or wrap around your waist. I also recommend a pair of wool socks for your hiking boots, especially for colder weather, but also for warmer weather too.
Make sure you’ve got plenty of tasty snacks packed for your hiking trip. Check out this post for all of the snacks I took on my day hiking trip to Rocky Mountain.
It’s important to stay fed and hydrated while out on the trails, and there is only one restaurant inside the park—the cafe inside the Trail Ridge Store (located near the Alpine Visitor’s Center on Trail Ridge Road).
The store and cafe are open from May until October, but there are also many other options in the nearby towns of Grand Lake and Estes Park. In case you’re enjoying the park so much (which you will) and don’t make it to a restaurant for lunch (which you may not), just bring lots of snacks!
If you do stop at the Trail Ridge Store, be sure to get a delicious cup of hot chocolate. It’s the perfect treat after hiking in the elements.
Pick your Trails and Enjoy the Views
Bring a portable battery charger because you’re going to take so many amazing photos that your phone and camera will run out of battery!! Hiking through all weather conditions at Rocky Mountain National Park is so exciting.
Everywhere you turn, the views and weather conditions may change, providing a truly unique landscape for incredible photos. It will be a hiking adventure you’ll never forget.
Here are a few must see spots for your hiking trip to Rocky Mountain:
- Trail Ridge Road – beautiful drive through the park (watch for the extreme weather signs, which may mean a blizzard is around the corner)
- Bear Lake Trail
- Andrew’s Glacier
- Ouzel Falls
- Alberta Falls
- Flattop Mountain
- Chasm Lake
- The Stanley – film location of The Shining, if you’re into that sort of thing 😬 (must pay to visit)
- Alpine Visitor’s Center – for hot chocolate and views
Click here for more information about the trails and a map of the park:
This article is a great resource for hiking trails in Rocky Mountain. If you click into each trail, it will show you the skill level, reviews, and photos.
Now you know what to expect, what snacks to pack, what clothes to wear, and a few hikes and scenic spots to check out! Enjoy hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park and the magic of all it’s weather conditions.