Hiking Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear Lake Trailhead

Bierstadt Lake Trailhead

Bowen-Baker Trailhead

Chapin Pass Trailhead

Corral Creek Trailhead

Cow Creek Trailhead

Cub Lake Trailhead

Deer Ridge Junction Trailhead

Dunraven Trailhead

East Inlet Trailhead

Fern Lake Trailhead

Glacier Gorge Trailhead

Grand Lake East Shore Trailhead

Green Mountain Trailhead

Kawuneeche Visitor Center

Lawn Lake Trailhead

Lily Lake Trailhead

Longs Peak Trailhead

Lumpy Ridge Trailhead

Moraine Park Trailhead

North Inlet Trailhead

Onahu Creek Trailhead

Poudre Lake Trailhead

Sprague Lake Trailhead and Picnic Area

Storm Pass Trailhead

Timber Creek Trailhead

Twin Sisters Trailhead

Upper Beaver Meadows Trailhead

Ute Trailhead

Wild Basin - Finch Lake Trailhead

Wild Basin - Sandbeach Lake Trailhead

Wild Basin Trailhead

Rocky Mountain National Park - Photos

Rocky Mountain National Park - Ecology

Rocky Mountain National Park ranges from 7,860' - 14,259' across 5 ecosystems and sub-systems. These distinct but interconnected life zones support elk, moose, mule deer, bear, bighorn sheep, mountain lion and mountain goat among hundreds of animals:

MONTANE ECOSYSTEM: 5,600' - 9,500'

Ponderosa Pine is a primary constituent of the Montane. They inhabit dry, south-facing slopes in an open, park-like setting.

Grasses and shrubs, notably sage, fill the gaps between widely spaced trees in ponderosa parks. Ponderosa bark changes from gray-brown to cinnamon-red over time, and omits a pleasant fragrance when warmed by the sun. The long needles of ponderosa pines are attached to the stem in groups of two's and three's.

North-facing slopes of the Montane hold more moisture; here trees grow closer together and competition for sunlight produces a tall, slender growth form.

Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and the occasional Engelmann spruce compete for resources on these colder slopes. A few shade-tolerant plants also grow on the forest floor.

Montane soil with high moisture content may support aspen, distinguished by their white bark and spectacular autumn colors.

Willow, mountain alder and water birch can be found along riparian corridors. Blue spruce may also grow near streams at these elevations and hybridize with Engelmann spruce.

Montane lowlands and swales can become oversaturated and unable to support evergreen forests.

Plants and Animals of the Montane Ecosystem

  • Trees: Ponderosa Pine Douglas Fir, Quaking Aspen, Lodgepole Pine

  • Shrubs: Antelope Bitterbrush, Wax Current, Kinnikinnick Big Sage, Common Juniper, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Holly Grape

  • Herbaceous Plants: Needle and Thread Grass, Daisy, Locoweed, Geranium Whiskbroom Parsley, Blue Grama Pasque Flower, Gumweed Penstemon, June Grass Sedge, Mariposa Lily Spike Fescue, Miner's Candle Sulphur Flower, Dwarf Mistletoe Wallflower, Mountain Muhly Blue Columbine

  • Birds: Mountain Bluebird Solitary Vireo, Western Bluebird, Black-Billed Magpie, Mountain Chickadee, Common Nighthawk, Red Crossbill, Pygmy Nuthatch, Great Horned Owl, Golden Eagle, Raven, Cassin's Finch, Northern Flicker, Pine Siskin, Northern Goshawk, Townsend's Solitaire, Steller's Jay, Yellow-Rump Warbler, Tree Swallow, Woodpecker (Downy and Hairy)
    Western Tanager, Western Wood Pee Wee

  • Mammals: Badger Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Black Bear, Deer Mouse, Bobcat, Porcupine, Chipmunk, Bighorn Sheep, Coyote, Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel, Mule Deer Abert's Squirrel, Elk, Skunk, Long-Tailed Weasel, Mountain Lion, Otter, Moose

SUBALPINE ECOSYSTEM: 9,500' - 11,000'

The Subalpine Ecosystem ranges from 9,500' - 11,000' and changes dramatically over this span. Primary constituents include lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, aspen and Engelmann spruce.

Lodgepole pine is particularly abundant at the lower range, and in burned or logged areas where they respond well to sun. Once the forest is re-established, lodgepole will be succeeded by spruce and fir.

Limber pine is found in the sublapine's highest, most exposed elevations. They're specifically adapted to adverse conditions with flexible limbs and a short, gnarled trunk to stabilize the tree.

Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir, which grow straight and tall in the mid subalpine, become shorter and stunted at the top of their range. Poor soil, thin air, strong wind, extreme weather and a shorter growing season limit growth at higher elevations.

Exposure limits new growth on the windward side of spruce and fir, leaving new growth to the lee side. Trees with branches on only one side are called banner trees or flag trees. Near treeline, seedlings may germinate on the lee side of rocks and grow only as tall as the rock's protection.

Krummholz - a German word meaning twisted wood - describes the stunted, irregular growth patterns of trees in the ecological transition zone between subalpine forests and alpine tundra.

Snow cover may protect krummholz trees during the winter, but exposed limbs do not always survive. Well-established krummholz trees may be several hundred to a thousand years old.

Plants and Animals of the Subalpine Ecosystem

  • Trees: Lodgepole Pine, Subalpine Fir, Engelmann Spruce , Limber Pine, Bristlecone Pine

  • Shrubs: Blueberry (Vaccinium), Elder, Cinquefoil, Wood's Rose, Wax Current

  • Herbaceous Plants: Arnica, Needle Grass, Fairy Slipper, Colorado Blue Columbine, Gentian, Sneezeweed, Lousewort, Twinflower, Pipsissewa, Sedge, Senecio

  • Birds: Brown Creeper, Ruby Crowned Kinglet, Pine Grosbeak, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, White Breasted Nuthatch, Red Crossbill, Williamson's Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Pine Siskin, Blue Grouse, Raven, Dark-Eyed Junco, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Gray Jay, Townsend's Solitaire, Stellar's Jay, Yellow-Rump Warbler, Northern Goshawk, Woodpecker (Downy and Hairy)

  • Mammals: Pine Marten, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Black Bear, Deer Mouse, Bobcat, Porcupine, Chipmunk, Snowshoe Hare, Nuttall's Cottontail, Shrew, Coyote, Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel, Mule Deer, Long-Tailed Weasel, Elk, Meadow Vole, Chickaree, Bushy Tailed Wood Rat and Mountain Lion


The alpine tundra ecosystem ranges from 11,000'-11,500' up to the highest points in the Park. Approximately one-third of Rocky Mountain National Park lies above treeline, with 60+ peaks over 12,000'.

Strong wind, cold temperatures, poor soil, extended snow cover and a short growing season limit what plants can grow here.

Many flowering plants of the tundra have dense hairs on stems and leaves for wind protection, or red-colored pigments that convert sunlight into heat.

Some plants take two or more years to form flower buds, which survive winter below the surface. These buds will open and produce fruit with seeds all within just a few weeks of summer.

Lichens are comprised of two organisms: a fungus that provides structure, and an algae within the fungus that stores water and gives it color. Lichens need only a rock, sunlight, and some water every few years to survive.

Enclosed algal cells can photosynthesize above 32 F, and the outer fungal layers can absorb more than their own weight in water.

A 1” diameter lichen may be hundreds of years old; some lichens can live for thousands of years. Lichens help turn rock into soil by secreting acids that dissolve it into minerals.

Cushion and mat plants help build soil by capturing organic debris in their foliage, plots in which grasses and taller plants can eventually root. This turns fellfield into alpine turf, a process that can take centuries.

Alpine vegetation is very fragile, and can take centuries to recover from a disturbance.

Plants and Animals of the Alpine Ecosystem

  • Shrubs: Willow

  • Grasses and Grass-like Plants: Alpine Blue Grass, Alpine Timothy, Skyline Blue Grass, Spike Trisetum, Tufted Hair Grass, Spreading Wheatgrass, Kobresia, Spike Wood-Rush and Pyrennian Sedge

  • Forbs and FLowers: Alpine Avens, Queen's Crown, Alpine Bistort, Marsh Marigold, American Bistort, Mertensia, Pygmy Bitterroot, Rydbergia, Snow Buttercup, Alpine Paintbrush, Dwarf Clover, Alpine Phlox, Parry's Clover, Moss Pink, One-Headed Daisy Alpine Sandwort, Black-Headed Daisy, Saxifrage, Elephantella, Sky Pilot, Alpine Forget-Me-Not, Alpine Sorrel, Arctic Gentian, Alpine Wallflower, King's Crown and Blue Columbine

  • Birds: White-Tailed Ptarmigan, Rosy Finch, Horned Lark, White-Crowned Sparrrow and Water Pipit

  • Mammals: Snowshoe Hare, Pika, Chipmunk, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, Pika, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat

Rocky Mountain National Park - Geology

Rocky Mountain National Park's complex geologic history spans almost 2 billion years.

The Rocky Mountains have been repeatedly uplifted and eroded over millions of years. Although many of its mountaintops have been flattened by ancient erosion, recent glaciation has left steep scars, U-shaped valleys, lakes and moraine deposits.

The Park's oldest rocks were produced when plate movements subjected sea sediments to intense pressure and heat. The resulting metamorphic rocks (schist and gneiss) are estimated to be 1.8 billion years old. Later, large intrusions of hot magma finally cooled about 1.4 million years ago to form a core of crystalline igneous rock (mostly granite).

During the long Paleozoic Era, the Park area was variously submerged, lifted up, and eroded. Early in the Mesozoic Era, approximately 100 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the shoreline of a shallow sea which extended from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.

Animal remains were deposited in layers of sand, silt and mud. The resulting sedimentary rock layers (including fossils) are now exposed in the foothills to the east of the Park.

Almost 70 million years ago, the Rocky Mountain Uplift began. Giant blocks of ancient crystalline rock, overlain by younger sedimentary rock, broke and were thrust upward.

Even as the uplift occurred, streams started eroding away the sedimentary rocks washing new sediments to the east and west. When the sedimentary rocks were mostly gone, erosion continued leveling the ancient Precambrian rocks until only a few isolated remnants projected above the gently rolling landscape. The gentle slopes atop Trail Ridge and Flattop Mountain are remnants of this erosion surface.

During the Cenozoic Era,some faulting and regional up warping lifted the Rocky Mountain Front Range as much as 5,000' to its present height. Some volcanic activity left young volcanic rock in contact with Precambrian rocks. The volcanic rocks are seen mostly on the Colorado River District of the Park. Differential movement along faults disrupted drainage patterns, resulting in higher mountains, waterfalls and large valley areas, such as Estes Valley.

Streams had established drainage patterns with V-shaped valleys cut into hard rock before the climate became cooler, perhaps 2M years ago. In the higher valleys, snow changed to glacial ice that flowed down valleys.

Glacial erosion changed V-shaped valleys into U-shaped valleys. Converging rivers of ice flowed down into lower valleys where the ice warmed, melted, and deposited debris scraped from the mountains above. Loose rock material carried by the ice was deposited along the sides, forming lateral moraines. At the ends of glaciers, ice carried rocks were dumped to form terminal moraines.

Although glaciers must have filled the high valleys and then melted at least four different times, only the latest two times (Pinedale and Bull Lake) left evidence which is easy to find. During the latest time of major glaciation, glaciers from Forest Canyon, Spruce Canyon, Odessa Gorge and numerous tributary valleys all flowed together and melted in the area now called Moraine Park.

This glacier deposited distinct lateral moraines along the south and north sides of Moraine Park and a terminal moraine against the small mountain (Eagle Cliff) to the east.

Similar glaciers were melting in the areas now called Glacier Basin, Horseshoe Park and Kawuneeche Valley.

Today, steep semicircular scars (cirques) indicate the tops of U-shaped glaciated valleys. Chasm Lake, below the east face of Longs Peak, rests in the bottom of a cirque. A cirque on Sundance Mountain is easily seen from Trail Ridge Road and numerous cirques may be seen from Bear Lake Road. Glacial erosion also left scratches (striations), grooves and polished surfaces on some of the rocks.

The few small glaciers and snowfields now occupying the tops of glacial valleys are only hints of what the ice age was like. The park's high mountaintops were not covered with glacial ice and a few of the lower valley areas of the Park escaped the effects of glaciation. The Twin Owls and Gem Lake Trail area has coarse-grained granite rounded into interesting shapes by millions of years of non-glacial erosion.

Outside the Park, water from melting glaciers helped carve canyons to the east. Hogback ridges were left near Loveland and Lyons by differential erosion of sedimentary rock tilted up against older crystalline rock of the mountains.

Rocky Mountain National Parkoccupies only a small part of the 200 mile long Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, but the Park's mountaintops show the effects of ancient erosion and many of the valleys illustrate classic features of glaciation.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Wildlife

There are at least 66 indigenous mammals to Rocky Mountain National Park. Grizzly bear, gray wolf, and bison have been extirpated (i.e. are locally extinct), and two others - lynx and wolverine - are either extirpated or extremely rare.

Elk of Rocky Mountain National Park
North American elk, or wapiti, were once plentiful in the Rocky Mountain National Park area. Euro- Americans settlers hunted elk intensively through the 1800s, and few if any remained by 1890.

In 1913 and 1914, before the Park was established, the Estes Valley Improvement Association and United States Forest Service transplanted 49 elk from Yellowstone National Park to this area.

Concurrent and successful efforts to eliminate predators - including the gray wolf and grizzly - hastened elk recovery. Today elk face accelerating development on adjacent lands that impede traditional migration routes, and limit access to winter feeding grounds.

The current elk population fluctuates dramatically from summer to winter. Concentrations of 3,200 elk in summer may dwindle to 1,000 during winter as they migrate to lower elevations and move outside the Park.

Mature males can stand well over 5' at the shoulder and reach 1,000 lbs. Females typically measure 4' at the shoulder and weigh 300-400 lbs.

Elk Mating Season

Elk descend from the high country in autumn for the annual mating rut. Cows form large herds and bulls linger anxiously on the periphery while battling for dominance. Though violent clashes occur, mature bulls prefer bugling and displaying their antlers, necks and bodies to fighting.

Mature males emit strong, musky odors and bugle loudly to attract mates. The eerie, echoing call is intended to intimidate rivals and possibly release tension. Fittingly, rut is derived from the latin word meaning roar.

Cows and younger bulls may also bugle, but can't match the strength or range of the older bulls' calls.

Prime bulls (8-9 years old) stand the best chance of mating, a taxing process that severely weakens the animal. Some of the most successful males from a breeding standpoint fail to survive the following winter.

Females gestate for 250 days through the rigorous winter and early spring, giving birth in late May or June. Calves weigh about 30 lbs and are lightly spotted to help conceal them. Successful calves may reach 250 lbs in their first year.

Bighorn Sheep

In the mid-1800s, bighorn sheep in the Rocky Mountain National Park area numbered in the thousands. Settlement of Estes Valley - and subsequent hunting and winter habitat fragmentation - led to a precipitous decline. Scabies and pneumonia carried by domestic sheep also had a severe impact.

The bighorn population declined until the 1950's, when researches found about 150 bighorn in very remote terrain of the Mummy and the Never Summer ranges.

Pressure eased on native bighorn populations through the 1970s, and in 1978 and 1980, wildlife managers reintroduced bighorn sheep to their historic ranges along Cow Creek and the North St. Vrain River.

These new herds along the eastern boundary of the Park succeeded, and today as many as 600 bighorn sheep live in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.


Adult males (bulls) can weigh 1,500 pounds and stand over 6' at the shoulder. Males are distinguished from other Cervidaes by their palmated antlers, which can reach 6' wide and weigh 90 pounds.

Adult females (cows) are smaller, averaging 700 - 800 pounds and 5-6' at the shoulder. They do not grow antlers.

Moose are fairly common on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, but will venture east in late summer and through fall once mountain passes have cleared.

Moose are browsers, meaning they procure food from the leaves and stems of plants (vs. grazers, that feed on ground level vegetation like grass). Moose favor marsh and aquatic plants, which are more abundant on the west side.

Historical records dating back to the 1850's suggest that moose were most likely only transient in Rocky Mountain National Park. In fact, there's little evidence a breeding population even existed at all in northern Colorado.

In 1978 and 1979, the Colorado Division of Wildlife transferred two groups of moose (12 each year) from the Uintah Mountains and Grand Teton herds to an area just west of the Never Summer Range.

The original collection of 4 bulls, 13 cows, 4 yearlings, and 3 calves -- all monitored - were successful. In 1980, visitors and staff observed moose in the Kawuneeche Valley and as far north as Lulu City.


There are 5 native amphibian species in Rocky Mountain National Park. They're all considered species of concern due to apparent low numbers, lack of information about their status, and/or declining populations.

The boreal toad has been on Colorado's endangered species list since November 1993 and on the federal government's "warranted but precluded" list since March 1995.

Amphibians and Reptiles Reported in Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

  • Boreal or Western toad (Bufo boreas)

  • Western chorus frog (Pseudacris triseriata)

  • Northern Leopard frog (Rana pipiens)

  • Wood frog (Rana sylvatica)

  • Western terrestrial garter snake( Thamnophis elegans)


280 bird species have been reported in Rocky Mountain National Park and adjacent wilderness areas. Most are unique to mountainous habitats of the Southern Rocky Mountains. Specialty species include:

White-tailed Ptarmigan, Blue Grouse, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Williamson's Sapsucker, Three-toed Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, American Dipper, Western Tanager, Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, Townsend's Solitare, Wilson's, MacGillivray's and Virginia's Warblers, Brown-capped Rosy Finch, Black Swift and Northern Pygmy Owl.

In 2000, Rocky Mountain National Park was designated as a Global Important Bird Area. This designation recognizes the vital role of the park in the perpetuation of avian species.


There are 7 native and at last 4 exotic fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. Cold water temperatures and natural barriers to migration likely rendered most Park waters naturally fishless (though the original distribution of fish was not documented prior to 1923).

Stocking native and non-native fish to establish harvestable trout populations occurred the late 1800s - 1968. Non-native stocking was halted in 1975. One native fish, the greenback cutthroat trout, is federally listed as threatened and a long-range recovery program for it and the Colorado River cutthroat has been ongoing since 1975 in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Camping


There are 5 drive-in campgrounds and 1 drive-in group camping area in the Park. Moraine Park and Glacier Basin take reservations, as do all group-camping areas. Other campgrounds are first-come, first-served, and are generally full throughout the summer.

There are no electric, water or sewer hookups at any campsites. Water is turned off in the winter at all year-round campgrounds. Drinking water is available at entrance stations and open visitor centers.

Aspenglen Campground (8,200' is located on US 34 just west of the Fall River Entrance Station. It has 54 sites and operates mid May - late September. No reservations taken. The fee is $20 per site per night. Recreational vehicle length limit is 30'.

Glacier Basin Campground (8,500') is closed the entire summer of 2013 due to construction on Bear Lake Road. The Campsite is located on Bear Lake Road approximately six miles south of the Beaver Meadow Entrance Station. It has 150 sites and operates mid May - early September. Reservations recommended. The fee is $20 per site per night. Recreational vehicle length limit is 35'.

Glacier Basin Group Sites are closed the entire summer of 2013 due to construction on Bear Lake Road. It normally operates late May - early September. Reservations recommended. Camping fee is $3 person per night. Tents only. Small sites fit 10 - 15 people, medium sites 16-25 people, large sites 26- 40 people. No limit on number of tents. No more than five vehicles per site.

Longs Peak Campground (9,500') is located approximately nine miles south of Estes Park on Route 7. It has 26 sites and is open from late May - mid September. No reservations taken. Tents only. Camping fee $20/site/night when water is on late May 25 - mid September 14; $14/site/night when water is off.

Moraine Park Campground (8,160') is located on Bear Lake Road approximately 2.5 miles south of the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. It has 245 sites and is open year round. Reservations are recommended May 22 - October 8. First-come, first-served the remainder of the year. Camping fee $20/site/night during the reservation period and when water is on; fee after water is turned off is $14/site/night. Recreational vehicle length limit is 40'.

Moraine Park Group Sites - Open winter only. First-come, first-served. Camping fee $3/person/night. Tents only. Small sites fit 10 - 15 people, medium sites 16-25 people, large sites 26- 40 people. No limit on number of tents. No more than five vehicles per site.

Timber Creek Campground (8,900') is located on US 34 approximately eight miles east of the Grand Lake Entrance Station It has 98 sites and is open year round. No reservations taken. Camping fee $20/site/night from late May - late September. Fees $14/site/night when water is off. Recreational vehicle length limit is 30'.

Campgrounds outside of Rocky Mountain National Park

  • Mary's Lake Campground - www.maryslakecampground.com: 970.586.4411

  • Estes Park KOA Campground - estesparkkoa.com: 970.586.2888

  • National Park Retreats - www.nationalparkretreats.com: 970.586.4563

  • Spruce Lake RV Park - www.sprucelakerv.com: 970.586.2889

  • Estes Park Campground - www.estesparkcampground.com: 970.586.4188

  • Rocky Mountain National Park - www.rmnp.com: 970.586.1206

  • Yogi Bears Jellystone Park of Estes - www.jellystoneofestes.com: 970.586.4230

  • Salvation Army High Peak Camp - highpeak.imsalvationarmy.org: 970.586.3311

  • Manor Trailer Park & Motel - maps.google.com: 970.586.3251

  • Seven Pines Campground & Cabins - www.co-camping-review.com: 970.586.3809



Backcountry Office: 970.586.1242

Note: Information on specific backcountry campsites is located in the Camping section of each individual trail description.


  • Permits are required for all overnight stays in the Rocky Mountain National Park backcountry.

  • There's a $20 administration fee per party. Fees are payable by exact cash, check or credit card when the permit is issued.

  • You may obtain day-of-trip permits in person year-round. You may make reservations by mail or in person anytime after March 1 for a permit in that calendar year. You may only make reservations by phone from March 1 - May 15, and after October 1.

  • Attach permits to the outside of your backpack at all times when hiking. At camp, attach the permit to the outside of your tent. Permits confirm the number of people in your party and itinerary.

  • A corresponding Dash Tag must be displayed in each vehicle at the trailhead.

  • Deviation from your planned itinerary is not permitted.

  • Pets, weapons, and vehicles (including bikes) are not allowed in the backcountry.

  • Maximum stay is 7 nights in the backcountry at a time, and no more than 3 consecutive nights at a single campsite (peak season). October - May campers may stay in the backcountry up to 14 nights with no more than a total of 21 nights per year.

  • If you end a trip early, notify a ranger to cancel the permit, so other backpackers may take your place.

During the winter and early spring you may self-register at the Wild Basin Winter TH, Sandbeach Lake TH, Longs Peak Ranger Station, Dunraven TH, and Fall River and Beaver Meadows Entrance Stations.

In summer months, if you have a permit reservation, you must pick up the permit by 10 a.m. on the first day of your planned backcountry stay, otherwise, the permit will be cancelled in its entirety, and given to other backpackers. If you know you will not be using your permit, please cancel your reservation as soon as possible.

Designated Backcountry Site Regulations

  • Pitch tents as close to the indicated sign as possible, out of potential hazard from standing dead trees.

  • Stoves only. Fires are prohibited, unless staying in a designated wood fire site with metal fire ring.

  • All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day.

  • Party size limit is 7 (individual sites) and 12 (group sites).

  • Winter guidelines apply if there's more than 4” of snow at the site. Camp at least 200' away from the site - do not camp in the site. Fires are not permitted. Stoves only.

Food Storage

  • All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day. Bear canisters are the best way to protect your supplies and wildlife. Food must otherwise be hung.

  • Food must be hung at least 10' above the ground and 4' from a tree trunk. It takes at least 50' of rope to properly hang food.

  • Keep all scented items out of your tent, including personal items. Store them with your food.

  • Bears are not the only animals with great noses: deer, raccoons, jays, bighorn sheep and mountain goat may also be interested in your food, or salts from urine and sweat around your campsite. Keep a clean camp to avoid unwanted visitors.

Field Tips

  • You must treat, filter or boil any drinking water obtained from streams, lakes or snow in the backcountry. Though water may appear pristine, it's generally not safe to drink due to giardia and other harmful bacteria.

  • Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the Rocky Mountains, especially July-August. Be mindful of changing weather and aim for treeline well before storms develop.

  • Insect repellent is advisable.

  • Where there are no maintained trails in the tundra, do not walk in single file - spread out to avoid wearing out concentrated areas. Minimize damage by walking over rocks as much as possible.

Planning Tips

  • Speak with a Ranger before heading into the backcountry. Ask specific questions about trail conditions, weather and terrain.

  • Use a good topo map to plan your itinerary. Distance, elevation gain, elevation at your destination and water availability are primary considerations when planning backcountry travel.

  • If you live at sea level, it will take several days to acclimate to higher elevations. Most trails begin above 7,500' and climb steeply.

  • Anticipate a wide range of weather conditions on your trip. Never assume that weather conditions early in the day or at lower elevations will be the same at your final destination.

  • Always leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home.

Cross-country areas are the least traveled and accessible places in Rocky Mountain National Park. Stock is not permitted in these areas. Those who venture here must be equipped and skilled with a map, compass, and Leave No Trace techniques.

  • There are no developed campsites or trails in cross-country areas. Travel party limit is 7.

  • Fires are not permitted. Stoves only.

  • Cross-country campsites must be 200' from water, and out of sight and sound of other parties.

  • You must move your camp at least 1 mile each day. 2 night maximum stay in cross-country areas.

If you plan to bivouac during a technical climb, you must obtain a bivy permit. Permits are issued only to technical climbers.

  • Party limit is 4, and all must be climbing. The climb must be 3.5 miles+ from the trailhead, and four or more technical pitches to qualify for bivy.

  • You must bivy in the area specified on your permit.

  • Bivys must be on rock or snow and broken down by sunrise. Tents or erected structures are not permitted.

  • Fires are not permitted. Stoves only.

  • All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day.

There are special stock campsites and rules for overnight camping with stock. Some trails are closed to stock use. Call 970.586.1206 or 970.586.1242 for more information.

Stock Sites

  • Camp only designated stock sites.

  • Party size limit is 6 people and 8 stock at individual sites.

  • Party size limit is 12 people and 16 stock at group stock sites.

  • Stoves only. Fires are prohibited, unless staying in a designated wood fire site with metal fire ring.

  • Grazing is prohibited. Carry complete feed.

  • Loose herding is prohibited. Tie stock to hitchracks.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Fishing

Sport fishing is permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Fishing was popular with early settlers in the Rocky Mountains. To improve the sport and attract tourists, many streams and lakes were stocked with non-native trout, including waters with no natural fish populations.

The only native trout in the Park are greenback cutthroat and Colorado River cutthroat. Since 1975, native trout have experienced intensive restoration efforts, while non-native fish are being removed and no longer stocked.

Protect Fish and their Habitats

Park fish are vulnerable to invasive organisms that can be carried on waders and other gear. Please follow gear disinfection guidelines before entering park waters, and when moving between different lakes and streams.

Today's Fisheries

At least 4 trout species exist in the Park: brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat. Some suckers also inhabit streams and lakes. Supplemental stocking is done only to restore native species.

Only 48 of the 156 lakes in the park have reproducing fish populations. Cold water temperatures and lack of spawning habitat limit reproduction in high altitude lakes. Fishing success at high altitudes varies, even in waters known to contain fish.

Restoration of native species involves strict possession limits. See possession limits below for specific regulations. You must be able to identify each species of fish taken.


A valid Colorado fishing license is required for persons 16 years of age or older to fish in Rocky Mountain National Park. No other permit is necessary, however it's your responsibility to know and obey applicable regulations.

To obtain current Colorado fishing license fees visit the Colorado Division of Wildlife web site.

Method of Capture

  • One hand-held rod or line per person. A second rod stamp is not honored in the Park.

  • Bait and worms are not permitted in catch-and-release waters.

  • Use of lead sinkers (or other lead fishing materials) is strongly discouraged.

  • Artificial lures or flies with one (single, double, or treble) hook with a common shank may be used.

  • Artificial flies or lures applies to devices containing materials such as wood, plastic, glass, hair, metal, feathers, or fiber, designed to attract fish.

  • This does not include: (a) any hand moldable material designed to attract fish by the sense of taste or smell; (b) any device to which scents or smell attractants have been externally applied; (c) molded plastic devices less than one and one-half inch in length; (d) foods; (e) traditional organic baits such as worms, grubs, crickets, leeches, minnows, and fish eggs; and (f) manufactured baits such as imitation fish eggs, dough baits, or stink baits.

  • Fly fishers may use a two hook system, where one hook is used as an attractant.

While in possession of any fishing equipment, bait for fishing (insects, worms, fish eggs, minnows or other organic matter) is prohibited. Children 12 years of age or under, however, may use worms or preserved fish eggs in all park waters open to fishing except those designated as catch-and release areas.

Possession Limit

This is general information only. Regulations are subject to change as conditions warrant. Consult a Ranger before setting out for the latest information. A complete list of regulations is available at park visitor centers and ranger stations.

Possession Limit means the numbers, sizes, or species of fish, fresh or preserved, a person may have. These provisions have park-wide application and are detailed below.

Possession Limit: 8 fish, 6 must be brook Trout

Species: Rainbow, Brown, Colorado River Cutthroat, Non-native Cutthroat
Limit: 2
Length: 10" or more

Species: Greenback Cutthroat Trout
Limit: 0
Length: (Catch-and-Release-ONLY)

Species: Brook Trout
Limit: 6 (8 if no other species are possessed)
Lenght: any size

Species: Additional Brook Trout Bonus
Limit: 10
Lenght: 8" or less

CLOSED WATERS: (no fishing allowed)

Bear Lake, inlet and outlet streams, extending 200 yards downstream
Bench Lake and Ptarmigan Creek above War Dance Falls
Hunters Creek above Wild Basin Ranger Station, as posted
Lake Nanita Outlet downstream 100 yards
South Fork Poudre River above Pingree Park
Upper Columbine Creek above 9,000 feet
Lily Lake east shore May-June


OPEN WATERS: (known to contain fish populations)

*This is not a complete listing of all the fishable waters in the Park.

-Black Lake
-Box Lake
-Fourth Lake
-Haynach Lake
-Jewel Lake
-Lake Haiyaha
-Lake Nanita (outlet closed)
-Lake of Glass
-Lake Solitude
-Lake Verna
-Little Rock Lake
-Loch Vale
-Lone Pine Lake
-Mills Lake
-Mirror Lake
-Peacock Pool
-Pettingell Lake
-Poudre Lake
-Rock Lake
-Sky Pond
-Spirit Lake
-Sprague Lake
-Ten Lake Park Lakes
-Thunder Lake
-Ypsilon Lake


Certain waters in the park with restored native fish populations are open year round during daylight hours, except as indicated. Use barbless hooks only. Any and all fish species taken must be immediately returned to the water unharmed. No bait is permitted by any age angler in catch-and-release areas.

The following waters are open for catch-and-release fishing:

Adams Lake**
Arrowhead Lake*
Big Crystal Lake*
Caddis Lake (Lower Fay Lake)*
Cony Creek (above Calypso Cascades)*
Dream Lake*
Fern Lake and Creek*
Fifth Lake**
Forest Canyon (above the Pool)*
Hidden Valley Beaver Ponds and Hidden Valley Creek (open only as posted)*#
Hutcheson Lakes*
Lake Husted*
Lake Louise*
Lawn Lake*
Lily Lake (south, west and north shores; east shore open July 1 to April 30)*
Loomis Lake*
Lost Lake*#
North Fork of the Big Thompson above Lost Falls*#
Odessa Lake*
Ouzel Creek (above falls; brook trout may be kept)*#
Ouzel Lake*#
Paradise Creek drainage**
Pear Lake and Creek*
Roaring River*
Sandbeach Lake and Creek*
Spruce Lake*
Timber Lake and Creek**
West Creek*

*Greenback Cutthroat Trout
**Colorado River Cutthroat
#A legal limit of brook trout may be kept

Rocky Mountain National Park - Contact

Rocky National Park is open 24 hours a day year round. Visitors can enter or exit at any time. If they are planning to stay overnight, park visitors must be in a designated campground site or a backcountry campsite reserved by a valid permit. From time to time, the Superintendent implements area closures to protect resources. When necessary, Park Rangers will issue court citations to persons violating the terms of a closure.

Rocky Mountain National Park
1000 Highway 36
Estes Park, CO 80517-8397

Visitor Information: 970-586-1206 (Daily 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST)
Visitor Information Recorded Message: 970-586-1333 (24 hours a day, updated daily)
Visitor Information for the Hearing Impaired: (TTY) 970-586-1319 (Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MST)
Backcountry Office: 970-586-1242
Campground Reservations: 877-444-6777
Fax: 970-586-1256


Alpine Visitor Center: Open Daily (May 23-October 8, weather permitting), 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: At Fall River Pass at the junction of Trail Ridge and Old Fall River roads
Activities: Go for a ranger-led walk in the Land Above the Trees. See exhibits on the alpine tundra. Purchase books. Eat a snack. Buy a gift. Accessible restrooms and vault toilets available.

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center: Open All Year (Closed Christmas Day), Open daily, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: On U.S. Route 36, 3 miles from the town of Estes Park
Activities: Watch a 20 minute film on the park (show times on the hour and half-hour throughout the day). Get oriented with the topographical relief map of the park. Ask a ranger what to do in the park. Purchase books. Reserve backcountry camping sites. Buy a gift. Handicapped accessible and family restrooms available.

Fall River Visitor Center: Open All Year (weekends only in winter), Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: On U.S. Route 34, 5 miles west of the town of Estes Park, near the Fall River Entrance to the park
Activities: Learn about wildlife. Ask a ranger what to do in the park. Buy a book. Help your kids "Discover" Rocky in a special hands-on exhibit. Handicapped accessible and family restrooms available. Next door you can eat a meal and buy gifts.

Holzwarth Historic Site: call park for current hours
Location: On US Rt 34, about 7 miles north of the Grand Lake Entrance Station. The lodge buildings are reached by a half mile walkway from the parking lot. A walking path connects the various buildings. Electric cart provides accessibility to the ranch, which is 1/2 mile from the parking lot.
Special Programs:There are guided tours of the historic guest ranch. Each open building has displays of furnishings, tools, and other equipment used by the dude ranch.

Kawuneeche Visitor Center: Open All Year, Open daily, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: 1 mile north of the town of Grand Lake on U.S. Route 34 at the entrance to the park
Activities: Take a walk with a ranger. Listen to illustrated programs on Saturday night. Watch a 20 minute film on the park (shown on request). Get oriented with the topographical relief map of the park. Learn about the Colorado River and its people. Buy a book. Reserve backcountry camping sites. Handicapped accessible restrooms available.

Moraine Park Visitor Center and Museum: Open daily through October 8, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Location: Off the Bear Lake Road, 1 1/2 miles from the Beaver Meadows Entrance.
Activities: See natural history exhibits. Walk a half-mile nature trail. Buy a book. The museum is handicapped accessible.

Sheep Lakes Information Station: Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.