Flourishing In Desolation
Rocky Mountain National sprawls across the eponymous mountains of Northern Colorado. The park is a mecca for wildlife sightings, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Trail Ridge Road is the highest elevation, continuously paved highway in the United States, and connects Estes Park on the east side of the park with Grand Lake to the west. Elk, big-horn sheep, and moose are regular sightings along the main road.
Visiting Rocky Mountain
Visiting Rocky Mountian National Park definitely benefits from planning. There is no ``fast`` path from one side of the park to the other. The scenic double lane Trail Ridge Road spans many of the highlights of the park but it is slow on a good day. Between road construction and wildlife inspired traffic jams traveling to the opposite side of the park can take up a chunk of the day. So, plan ahead to hit popular attractions early in the morning to beat the crowds and score a coveted parking space.
Like most National Parks, a thriving and occasionally overwhelming tourist industry has popped up around Rocky Mountain National Park. Most accommodations, businesses, restaurants, and your run-of-the-mill tourist traps are found in Estes Park, which hugs the eastern border of the park. Dollars to donuts, unless you lucked upon a campsite in the park, this is were you will stay. With next to no access points to the park from the north or south, the only other option for accommodations and services outside of the park is to the south west at Grand Lake. This is a much smaller and lower key region. We spent most of our evenings on this side of the park to avoid the crowds but it does come with much more limited options. Most of the iconic hikes and visitors centers are on the east side of the park. But being on the west side definitely has its perks.
Planning For Crowds
As a high elevation National Park, Rocky Mountains NP has a relatively limited season. If you want to avoid crowds, pack some snow shoes. Because the rest of the year is a constant trail of tourists. This is a park where it pays to plan ahead. Popular hikes require early arrival times to find parking near the trail head. Traveling from one side of the park to the other can be stopped by an elk siting as all the cars ahead of you stop to take a picture. (It's not allowed but people still do it). So plan ahead. Schedule popular destinations for early morning or evening visits and take it easy in the afternoon. We always brought lunch with us to avoid having to contend with crowds or travel out of the park for meals. This allowed us to ready more remote and less popular destinations at the peak hours and makes for a far more pleasant visit rather than bumping shoulders on crowded trails.