9 Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park
Our list of the best things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park contains everything from wildlife-spotting to whisky-quaffing
Looking to escape into nature? Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of Colorado’s most beautiful peaks. Expect tree-lined mountain vistas, walks around tranquil lakes and through wildflower meadows during the summer, and when winter rolls around - since there’s no big ski resort here - it's all peaceful, snowy silence. Wildlife flourishes in the Rockies, and you’re highly likely to spot elk, moose and marmots. Oh, and when you’re ready to retreat inside after a tough day's nature immersion, be sure to try the local whisky made with mountain water.
Looking for accommodation too? Here at Plum Guide, our holiday rental homes are vetted by professionals who make sure only the top 3% make it into our listings. They've tested everything from the beds to the water pressure - they've even measured the noise levels by the decibel. So you know you’re in for a luxurious and stress-free stay in one of our homes. And now, we bring you our travel expertise in this definitive list of things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Visit Elkins Distilling Co
There’s plenty of whisky-distilling and drinking history around here - but in 2016 Elkins became the first and only legal distillery to open in Estes Park. Visit the distillery on the banks of Lake Estes for craft cocktails or neat serves of Elkins’s famous smooth-tasting Colorado-grown corn whisky, made with waters from Rocky Mountain National Park.
Go wildlife-spotting with an expert
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to wildlife such as elk, deer, moose, pronghorn antelope, marmots and elusive black bears. Maybe you’ll want some pointers on where best to find these majestic creatures roaming around the wilderness (and what to do if one gets up close). Yellow Wood Guiding offers bespoke private wildlife, nature and photography tours with an expert who knows just where to spot the wildlife - and where to stand for the perfect Rocky Mountain perspectives. It’s just up to you to show off the photographic evidence when you get home. Alternatively, you needn't even leave your accommodation to snap some great shots of the Rockies, as our home Roaring Fork in Aspen attests.
Ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway
Next on our list of things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park, we have the Estes Park Aerial Tramway. This aerial tramway has been carrying people in its bright scarlet carriages from downtown Estes Park up to the summit of Prospect Mountain since 1955. It's essentially the best way to access a dramatic Rocky mountaintop vista - and the higher-elevation walking trails - without having to expend much effort to get there.
Take a tour of the Stanley Hotel
Another great thing to do in Estes Park is visit this legendary hotel. While your Plum Guide home will be much comfier than a haunted hotel (our bar is set far, far higher, believe us), you may want to pop in to the Stanley Hotel for a tour. Just one night of being snowed in at this creepy location - complete with its own pet cemetery - inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. And the hotel definitely leans in to its reputation as one of America’s famous haunted hotels, with daily ghost tours and an on-site psychic.
Stop by the hotel's whiskey bar
You might like a strong drink after being
scared witless entertained by ghost stories. The whiskey bar at the Stanley houses Colorado's largest selection of whiskies and some historic cocktails like the Stanley Old Fashioned and the Colonial Revival. The bar offers a window to the hotel’s pre-haunting historic grandeur, when it hosted guests such as socialite and Titanic survivor Molly Brown, Theodore Roosevelt and composer John Philip Sousa - but no judgment from us if you'd prefer to try the Redrum Punch.
Walk the Emerald Lake Trail
Hike your way along an easy route taking in Nymph Lake, Dream Lake and Tyndall Creek - plus views of Longs Peak, Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain - before you reach the ultra-photogenic Emerald Lake, which is a beautiful, vibrant green (as the name suggests). It’s about a three-and-a-half-mile round trip.
Enjoy exploring the Bear Lake Trail
Yes, another lake (well, there are more than 150 in Rocky Mountain National Park). Not too far from Nymph Lake, Bear Lake offers that classic sweeping mountains-trees-and-lake vista that the Rocky Mountains are so famous for. The walk around the lake is less than a mile long, so it's much less of a commitment and an easier option if you’re travelling with kids. It's also particularly picturesque in the autumn, when the aspen trees start to turn.
Drive along Trail Ridge Road
There's sweeping Rocky Mountain scenery on all sides as you take the high-altitude 48-mile drive From Estes Park to Grand Lake. Stop off for a mountain picnic, possible elk and moose sightings, and multiple photo opportunities - but remember to bring extra layers if you’re getting out of the car, since it gets chilly when the road reaches an elevation of 12,000+ feet. One of the quintessential things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Discover the Enos Mills Cabin Museum & Gallery
Passionate naturalist Enos Mills fought hard to have this pristine swathe of Colorado mountains turned into a protected area. This little cabin, built in 1885 and now run by two of Mills’s descendants, offers a glimpse into the work the ‘Father of the Rocky Mountain National Park’ did to campaign for the preservation of nature.