The best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is during the summer, from mid-June to mid-August or in the autumn months from mid-September to mid-October, however, these are also the busiest times at the park. For smaller crowds, try the shoulder months of April, May or late October while the weather isn't too cold and there's wildlife out and about.
When is the best time to hike in Rocky Mountain National Park?
The best time for hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is during summer (mid-June to mid-August) when the snow has mostly melted off all the trails. Another great time to hike is in the late spring and early autumn seasons when there isn't too much snow on the lower trails, and there are fewer people to share the tracks with.
Be sure to look into the precautions for hiking in Rocky Mountain, as storms often occur in the afternoons in summer and snow build-up in the winter can be a hazard on the trails. You may also find that snow has stuck around longer than expected, so some trails may be slushy and wet during the spring-to-summer transition. Check the conditions before you leave and be sure you've got the right equipment with you before embarking.
When is the best time to snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park?
Because of a long winter, you have plenty of opportunities to get the most out of a snow-filled Rocky Mountain National Park for winter hiking and snowshoeing alongside other winter activities. Many people come to enjoy the winter weather in February and March as the days have started warming up but there's still plenty of snow on the ground.
Our trips in Rocky Mountain National Park
Best for: hiking, camping, wildflower blooms and animal spotting
Summer in Rocky Mountain NP starts around mid-June and lasts until the middle of August and is generally known to have warm to hot days and cool nights. The warmest time will be mid-July, with average daily highs of 77ºF and lows of 50ºF. Summers in this area often see afternoon thunderstorms and sudden rainfall, with July having an average annual rainfall of about 2.5 inches. So it's recommended to hike in the morning to miss the high winds and rain.
There's a lot to see around the park this season, which is why it's one of the busiest times of the year at Rocky Mountain. Wildflowers bloom in the higher altitudes (11,000-13,000 feet) around June and the many animal residents of the region such as bighorn sheep, pika, coyotes, deer, moose and elk can be spotted enjoying the sunshine. During summer, the hiking trails are mostly cleared of snow, so getting to the alpine regions is much easier.
Best for: scenic drives, elk mating season and hiking
Autumn can be a hard month to predict as the warmth of the summer season meets the start of the year's snowfall for winter. In this region, autumn starts mid-August and finishes mid-October but year-to-year, seasonal variation can change these times.
Generally, days are still warm but clear of clouds with that first brisk wind of winter starting to roll in. Average temperatures will start to drop from around 70ºF highs in September to 50ºF highs in October, with lows falling from 44ºC to 32ºF. Snow can start to fall, especially in the higher regions around mid-September with an average of about 0.8 inches and can get up to 3 inches by mid-October.
Autumn is a beautiful season to visit RMNP as the trees transition from their forest greens to bright reds, yellows and oranges, and snow starts to settle on the higher regions. This makes it a really great time to drive through the park, although the Trail Ridge will close for winter towards the end of October and warnings are in place to expect winter driving conditions. From around mid-September to mid-October is another busy time of year as the elk mating season is in full swing and many visitors come to see the park before winter fully arrives.
Best for: skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and animal spotting
We said Colorado has a long winter right? Well, there's definitely enough time to see the snow-covered park as winter runs from around mid-October to mid-April. Temperatures steadily drop from 48ºF to 26ºF in November to their lowest of 30ºF to 12ºF in January before climbing back to about 46ºF highs in April. Alongside the cooler temperatures, this season brings dangers of sudden weather changes like snow storms and blizzards, high winds and even avalanche hazards due to snow build-up. There'll also be reduced road openings so be sure to look up the accessible areas before you drive into the park.
But on the flip side, the winter weather makes this time of year perfect for all manner of snow-day fun. Enjoy sledding, cross-country skiing, animal spotting and snowshoeing (among other winter activities) in the park all winter long. For the best snow, try February and March, although these times will be busier as the days get warmer. It is recommended that you take caution when in the alpine areas overnight. Specifically, be prepared for frigid temperatures and be sure you have suitable gear to suit the below-zero temperatures.
Best for: wildflowers, newborn animals and warmer days
The start of spring can be difficult to predict. Sometimes there's still plenty of snow underfoot around mid-April, while other times it's begun to melt and isn't as suitable for winter activities like snowshoeing. Rocky Mountain's spring season begins anytime from mid-April and lasts until mid-June. April is about the time the temperatures rise from below-freezing minimums; expect highs around 68ºF by June and lows still sitting around 40ºF. By the end of May, there usually isn't any more snow falling in the lower areas but there will likely still be snow on the higher trails until summer arrives halfway through June.
Spring is a beautiful time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park as wildflowers will begin to bloom around April/May and several animals, including the elk, will start giving birth to their young and emerge from hibernation. May is also when many of the hiking trails in the lower areas will be useable, though snowshoeing may still be possible in the alpine regions. If you're looking for a quiet time to visit in spring, April is often the best option as the park's permit system for visitors will start again in late May.