Bighorn Sheep with Longs Peak on Rocky Mountain National Park Tour

Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park & Estes Park

Plan your Rocky Mountain National Park Vacation for Year Round Highlights and Weather


Every month of the year can offer a fantastic Rocky Mountain National Park experience. Each month and season has its own charms, and there are best times of the year to visit Estes Park if you have specific interests and goals. Explore below to see the highlights of each month, and what the weather is like during these seasons to plan your perfect Estes Park Tour.


What is Estes Park like in:


Jan   Feb   Mar  Apr 

May  June July  Aug

Sept  Oct  Nov  Dec


Best Time to Visit Rocky Mountain National Park
& Estes Park


Best Time to Visit Estes Park to see Elk

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best national parks to see Elk year round. Most days offer close Elk sightings on Wildlife Tours year round, with mid July through August having the most distant views some days. The best time to see Elk during the Elk Rut is September with the biggest bulls from Sept 8th-Sept 21. Elk Bugle from August 24th until very early November. May 25th is the start of elk calving season, and elk babies are best seen after June 5th. Bull Elk spar nearly everyday in the winter months from November until March. Elk look the worst in April and early May as they change their winter coats. Larger Bull Elk lose their antlers on average from March 8th-16th. Large Bull Elk shed their velvet between August 8th-16th on average.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to see Moose

The best time to see Moose in Rocky Mountain National Park is May and June with closer sightings most days. Moose sightings continue daily in July through August. As summer progresses from Mid July through August sightings become more distant and less common often only seen in the spotting scopes. On warmer late summer days a few moose can be found at two lower elevation lakes with aquatic vegetation at closer range on about 5% of tours. By mid August some tours we only see a handful in the distance. Bull Moose have their biggest antler size in mid to late August but are also very challenging to find daily. September is pure luck at a few lower lakes and by early October sightings become quite rare. From Mid October until Late April moose sightings are not likely being seen on only 2% of Winter Wildlife Tours.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to see Bighorn Sheep

The best time to see Bighorn Sheep in Estes Park is October through early December during their pre-rut and rut season. Bighorn Sheep rams are found nearly everyday that time of year. Sheep can be seen nearly year round, but sighting distances are usally over 100 yards to a few miles in the spotting scope on distant hillsides from Mid September until Mid April. May and June offer chances for sheep at closer range in a few Rocky Mountain National Park locations, a bit more common in the mornings and mid day. June through Mid July sheep can be found on nearly every Estes Park Wildlife Tour through binoculars and spotting scopes. From Mid July through Early September sheep sightings have become much more rare and only through the spotting scopes at great distances of 1-5 miles away on 20% of late summer tours.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to see Bears

The best time to see Black Bears in Estes Park is late August and early September when the choke cherries and other berries ripen. Usually August 25th through September 10th depending on the season. Black Bear sightings in Rocky Mountain National Park are extremely rare with there being about 24 adult bears in the whole national park. It is reported more bears live around the town of Estes Park then the entire national park. Do not expect to see bears in Rocky. On Wildlife Tours we see a Black Bear about 2-5 times a year, usually at a significant distance. During the right week when berries are ripe we can see black bears usually in the binoculars and spottings scopes for 3-10 days until the berry patches are picked clean.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to see Fall Colors

The best time to see fall colors in Rocky Mountain National Park is Sept 20th through Oct 5th. Some years color starts sooner, and if we have good calm weather in early October we usually have some trees holding yellow leaves until Oct 10th-15th. The Bear Lake Road area aspens hit peak color around Sept 22th to 28th, and can lose their leaves within days.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to drive Trail Ridge Road

The best time to drive Trail Ridge Road is July at the peak of alpine flower season while there is still snow on the mountains. June through September are very good times to explore Trail Ridge. Trail Ridge Road opens every year on the Friday before Memorial Day in Late May. In Late May through Mid June there will be roadside snow, and the most snow on the peaks. July, August, and early September are the warmest months on the tundra, with snow melting by late July to early August most years. Tundra autumn starts around August 16th most years. The first snow is around the middle of September and the road can close at any date. Most years Trail Ridge Road closes around October 15th to the 25th. Once closed the drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake takes 3 hours 30 minutes and is 152 miles one way.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to see Flowers

The best time to see flowers in Rocky Mountain National Park is from mid June through late July. Lower valleys like Moraine Park will have Golden Banner and Rocky Mountain Iris from June 15th to 24th. Tundra flowers along Trail Road Road are best in July, usually around the 4th of July. Subalpine flowers, which are the most colorful, found just below tree line, are at the peak in late July through the 1st week of August. Lower hillsides around Deer Ridge and Horseshoe Park can have late season flowers until the end of August.

Best Time to Visit Estes Park to Snowshoe

The best time to Snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park is Janurary and Feburary. Snowshoeing season usually starts in later December and due to a warming climate snowshoeing ends in early March. Winter Hiking starts when the snow on trails gets hard and icy and is no longer soft and deep enough to provide good snowshoeing.


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Rocky Mountain Must Sees & Best Spots


Best Easy Walks in Rocky Mountain National Park for everyone young and old

Bear Lake and Sprague Lake are both amazingly beautiful walks that are wheelchair accessible that anyone mobile can experience. The Alluvail Fan is the best and only easily accessible waterfall in Rocky. Experience these lakes and more on a summer  Best of Rocky Tour or Winter Best of Rocky Tour.

Rocky Mountain National Park Best Easy Hikes

Dream Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead is the best easier 2 mile round trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. This trail is very busy and all hikes are uphill. Easy for Rocky is only 500 feet of elevation gain over a mile starting at 9,500 feet above sea level. The East Inlet Trail to Adams Falls and beyond is the best easy hike by Grand Lake. Explore more of Rocky on a guided Hiking Tour.

Summer Rocky Mountain Must See Areas

If you only have one summer day in Rocky Mountain National Park you need to expereince Trail Ridge Road and the alpine tundra. The Bear Lake area is also extremely beautiful but requires a Timed Entry Permit or a guided Best of Rocky Tour.

Best Spot to watch the Sunrise in Rocky Mountain National Park

The best place to watch the sun itself rise over the eastern horizon is Rainbow Curve on Trail Ridge Road. Rainbow Curve is 800 feet higher than the world famous Haleakalā National Park volcano summit. The best place to watch the sun rise over a lake would be Sprague Lake.

Often the best view of sunrise is not watching the actual sun rise, but watching the pink and golden light rays hit any of the eastern facing mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Best Spot to watch the Sunset in Rocky Mountain National Park

 In the summer months Trail Ridge Road is the best place to watch sunset, but be prepared for very cold conditions even in the summer and the chance for thunderstorms.

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What is Estes Park like in January


January is the best time for

January is the best month for Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park. Book your Estes Park Snowshoeing Tour here.

The snow is often soft and powdery, snow covered trees are beautiful, and if we get clear days which is more rare, the mountains can be breath taking.

Estes Park Weather in Janurary

The weather in Janurary in Estes Park averages highs of 31°F and lows of 13°F. Most days are overcast and cloudy about 42% of the time, and clear days happen only about 27% of the month. There is a 10% chance of precipitation each day of Janurary. Some winter days we get wind gusts of 35mph and extreme days may see 60-80mph, often at night. The winds average 11 mph. For more Janurary Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in Janurary

The Janurary weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is always colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher, and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. Often the mountains are covered in low clouds about half of Janurary days. On cloudy days we can explore lower elevations in the Estes Park Region and still often get great views of canyons, cliffs, and lower mountains. Clear and partly cloudy days offer amazing views usually a few times a week.

On driving tours, like Winter Wildlife Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 15°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat with layers are always important, but remember we have heated seats in a closed vehicle so we can warm up after any cold winter tour experiences.

While on our Estes Park Snowshoeing Tours it is usually around 18°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 15-35mph, and wind chills often are around -10°F. Once we get off the lake and back into the forest the winds calm and it warms up.

See our Winter Weather Page for more details and visuals on what winter is like.

Winter Weather Info

Best January Wildlife

January is a great time for bull elk sparring in the early mornings and evenings. January is also the best time of the year to track Snowshoe Hares on an evening Winter Wildlife Tour, or Winter Photo Wildlife Tour if you want to target them instead of Elk.

On an average Winter Wildlife Tour we see Elk bulls and sometimes huge cow elk herds, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep ewes, and turkey around the National Park. On good weather days we often will explore around the Estes Park Region and we can see Bald Eagles, Magpies, Ravens, and Prairie Dogs. The female elk have mostly migrated to the east of Estes Park in the winter.

*Note: Moose are not an animal we can find in January. There is a 20% chance to see Moose if we have perfect dry roads and drive for the last half of the Winter Wildlife Tour far outside the national park. This option means we often do not visit the national park, or see elk, mule deer, and turkey.

January Cons

Winter weather in the Rocky Mountains is often cold, windy, and harsh. There is a common mountain saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear."If you are well prepared January can be a great time to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.

If it snows more than 1 inch that day the roads around Estes Park, especially Highway 36 to Longmont, Boulder, and Denver, Highway 34 to Loveland and Fort Collins, and Highway 7 to Allenspark and Nederland are very dangerous and slow. We do cancel tours depending on the tour type and amount of fresh snow a few times in January.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

There are almost no crowds after January 5th, but the Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday. Winter is slow but Rocky is still loved and visited often.

Winter Photo Ops  Jan Availability

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What is Estes Park like in February


February is the best time for

February is the best month to find solitude in Rocky Mountain National Park, as it is the least visited month of the year.

February is the 2nd best month for Snowshoeing Rocky Mountain National Park. Book your Estes Park Snowshoeing Tour here.

Estes Park Weather in February

The weather in February in Estes Park averages highs of 31°F and lows of 13°F in the first half of the month, and increases to highs of 38°F and lows of 18°F in the last week of the month. There is a 13% chance of precipition any day in February. Most days are overcast and cloudy about 56% of the time, and clear days happen only about 23% of the month. The winds average 10 mph. Some winter days we get wind gusts of 35mph and extreme days may see 60-80mph, often at night. For more February Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in February

The February weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is always colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher , and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. Often the mountains are covered in low clouds about half of February days. On cloudy days we can explore lower elevations in the Estes Park Region and still often get great views of canyons, cliffs, and lower mountains. Clear and partly cloudy days offer amazing views usually a few times a week. 

On driving tours, like Winter Wildlife Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 15°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat with layers are always important, but remember we have heated seats in a closed vehicle so we can warm up after any cold winter tour experiences. 

While on our Estes Park Snowshoeing Tours it is usually around 18°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 15-35mph, and wind chills often are around -10°F. Once we get off the lake and back into the forest the winds calm and it warms up.

See our Winter Weather Page for more details and visuals on what winter is like.

Winter Weather Info

Best February Wildlife

February is a great time for bull elk sparring in the early mornings and evenings. February is the 2nd best time of the year to track Snowshoe Hares on an evening Winter Wildlife Tour, or Winter Photo Wildlife Tour.

On an average Winter Wildlife Tour we see Elk bulls and sometimes huge cow elk herds, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep ewes, and turkey around the National Park. On good weather days we often will explore around the Estes Park Region and we can see Bald Eagles, Magpies, Ravens, and Prairie Dogs.

*Note: Moose are not an animal we can find in February. There is a 20% chance to see Moose if we have perfect dry roads and drive for the last half of the Winter Wildlife Tour far outside the national park. This option means we often do not visit the national park, or see elk, mule deer, and turkey.

February Cons

Winter weather in the Rocky Mountains is often cold, windy, and harsh. There is a common mountain saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear." If you are well prepared Feburary can be a great time to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.

If it snows more than 1 inch that day the roads around Estes Park, especially Highway 36 to Longmont, Boulder, and Denver, Highway 34 to Loveland and Fort Collins, and Highway 7 to Allenspark and Nederland are very dangerous and slow. We do cancel tours depending on the tour type and amount of fresh snow a few times in the winter.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park Roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

The Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday. Winter is slow but Rocky is still loved and visited often.

Winter Photo Ops  Feb Availability

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What is Estes Park like in March


March is the best time for

March is the best month to visit the snowy mountains during spring break. The town of Estes Park is less likely snowy, but there is still 4-6 feet of snow up at Bear Lake in the National Park. Lower valleys of Rocky Mountain National Park will become snow free between snow storms.

March 8th through the 16th is the best time to see Bull Elk lose their antlers, with March 11th and 12th the most likely dates to see an elk with antlers one day, a bloody spot on his forehead the next, and then the start of a fuzzy new antler 2 days later.

Estes Park Weather in March

The weather in March in Estes Park averages highs of 38°F and lows of 19°F in the first half of the month, and increases to highs of 46°F and lows of 24°F in the last week of the month. March, April, and May are the wettest months of the year, and the highest chances for a bigger snow storm. Early March days have a 14% chance of percipitation, and that increases to 19% at the end of March. Most days are overcast and cloudy about 48% of the time, and clear days happen only about 24% of the month. The winds average 9 mph. Some winter days we get wind gusts of 35mph and extreme days may see 60-80mph, often at night. For more March Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in March

The March weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is still colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher, and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. Often the mountains are covered in low clouds about half of March days. On cloudy days we can explore lower elevations in the Estes Park Region and still often get great views of canyons, cliffs, and lower mountains. Clear and partly cloudy days after amazing views usually a few times a week. 

On driving tours, like Winter Wildlife Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 25°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat with layers are always important, but remember we have heated seats in a closed vehicle so we can warm up after any cold winter tour experiences.

March is the end of Snowshoeing as trails become hard packed with icy. So we start our Winter Hiking Tours where it is usually around 25°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 15-35mph, and wind chills often are around 0°F. Once we get off the lake and back into the forest the winds calm and it warms up.

See our Winter Weather Page for more details and visuals on what winter is like.

Winter Weather Info

Best March Wildlife

March is a good time to see Bighorn Sheep, usually at binocular distances, and the Bull Elk lose their antlers between March 8th through the 16th.

On an average Winter Wildlife Tour we see Elk bulls and sometimes huge cow elk herds, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep ewes, and turkey around the National Park. On good weather days we often will explore around the Estes Park Region and we can see Bald Eagles, Magpies, Ravens, and Prairie Dogs.

Mid to Late March is peak Turkey mating season, with fanning sightings becoming very common at the edge of the town of Estes Park.

*Note: Moose are not an animal we can find in March. There is a 20% chance to see Moose if we have perfect dry roads and drive for the last half of the Winter Wildlife Tour far outside the national park. This option means we often do not visit the national park, or see elk, mule deer, and turkey.

March Cons

Winter weather in the Rocky Mountains is often cold, windy, and harsh. Some days are absolutely wonderful. There is a common mountain saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear." If you are well prepared March can be a great time to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.

If it snows more than 1 inch that day the roads around Estes Park, especially Highway 36 to Longmont, Boulder, and Denver, Highway 34 to Loveland and Fort Collins, and Highway 7 to Allenspark and Nederland are very dangerous and slow. We do cancel tours depending on the tour type and amount of fresh snow a few times in March.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park Roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

The Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday.

Winter Photo Ops  March Availability

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What is Estes Park like in April


April is the best time for

April is the best month to see spring start in the Rocky Mountains. April 5th is the usual first day to see spring flowers at 8,000 ft, birds start to migrate around Estes Park including hummingbirds, Mountain Bluebirds, and Ospreys around the 23rd of April. The female Elk and yearlings will start their migration back into the Estes Valley from lower elevations. Around April 20th is when we start to see Moose on Winter Wildlife Tours. Smaller hibernating mammals like Chipmunks and ground squirrels start to emerge mid month.

Waterfalls and Streams under 9,000 ft start melting out and flowing well mid month. The subalpine lakes like Bear Lake, Sprague Lake, and Dream Lake will start to melt out in late April as well.

Estes Park Weather in April

The weather in April in Estes Park averages highs of 49°F and lows of 27°F in the first half of the month, and increases to highs of 54°F and lows of 31°F in the last week of the month. March, April, and May are the wettest months of the year, and the highest chances for a bigger snow storm. Early April days have a 19% chance of percipitation, and that increases to 27% at the end of April with it being mostly rain. April days are overcast and cloudy about 48% of the time, and clear days happen only about 26% of the month. The winds average 8 mph. For more April Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in April

The April weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is still colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher, and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. Driving tours, like Winter Wildlife Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 30°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat with layers are always important, but remember we have heated seats in a closed vehicle so we can warm up after any cold spring tour experiences.

About 35% of days will be so cloudy we can not see the high peaks. Days like that are great to explore the lower elevations and canyons in the Estes Park region.

April is fully into our Winter Hiking Tours where it is usually around 30°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 15-35mph, and wind chills often are around 5-10°F. Once we get off the lake and back into the forest the winds calm and it warms up.

See our Winter Weather Page for more details and visuals on what winter is like.

Winter Weather Info

Best April Wildlife

April is a good time to see Bighorn Sheep, usually at binocular distances. Mule Deer often become very common sights all over Estes Park and the lower elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Moose start to be seen on April 20th and after.

On an average Winter Wildlife Tour we see Elk bulls and sometimes huge cow elk herds, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep ewes, and turkey around the National Park. On good weather days we often will explore around the Estes Park Region and we can see Bald Eagles, Magpies, Ravens, and Prairie Dogs.

*Note: We can always find Elk in April, but their coats are changing and they can look a bit rough as they transition to their summer coat. Bulls will have small fuzzy nub antlers and that can be a cool encounter as they start growing.

April Cons

April is at the transition of Winter and Spring. Winter Weather is not uncommon, and if you are very unlucky once every 5-8 years we could get a blizzard of 20-40 inches of snow in a single day. Most April snowstorms are 1-4 inches, sometimes up to 12 inches.

Walking Trails around Bear Lake and Sprague Lake between mid March through mid May are very icy and require Ice Cleats and Hiking Poles to safely walk either of them on a Winter Best of Rocky Tour or Winter Hiking Tour. Lower elevation areas are usually snow and ice free and safe to walk.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park Roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

Spring is the only time of year I do not recommend Winter Hiking Tours to most people unless you feel very comfortable walking on icy snow packed trails that can be really slippery. All hiking trails have some level of incline and decline so those icy conditions are not something we can avoid. Ice Cleats and hiking poles are provided to help you stay safe.

The Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday.

Spring Photo Ops  April Availability

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What is Estes Park like in May


May is the best time for

May is the best month to see and photograph wildlife at close range. Early to Mid May offers nearly daily close Moose sightings at dawn and dusk. Bighorn Sheep are seen nearly everyday until May 25th at binocular distances and 35% of Wildlife Tours and Photo Wildlife Tours we see sheep close for great views and photos. The first Elk calves are always reported around May 19th, and after May 26th we have a better and better chance to see a tiny baby for just a few moments in the grass.

Trail Ridge Road opens on the Friday before Memorial Day. It usually closes on and off due to snow and melting ice that weekend until June 5th or so.

Around May 14th or so Trail Ridge Road will open from Many Parks Curve to Rainbow Curve. Once the road opens to Rainbow Curve, a very special 4 Hour Road Hiking Tour becomes available from Rainbow Curve to Forest Canyon Overlook, 4 miles round trip. We get to hike easily above treeline, see huge 20 foot snow walls and get to see the mountain views of Trail Ridge Road for the first time of the season. All while walking on the paved Trail Ridge Road with no traffic, except for National Park maintenance vehciles.

Estes Park Weather in May

The weather in May in Estes Park averages highs of 55°F and lows of 34°F in the first half of the month, and increases to highs of 64°F and lows of 38°F in the last week of the month. March, April, and May are the wettest months of the year, and the highest chances for a bigger snow storm. Yes, it still snows on and off at every elevation during all of May. May days have a 28% chance of precipitation, and at the end of May it will more likely rain than snow below 9,000 ft. May days are overcast and cloudy about 49% of the time, and clear days happen about 28% of the month. May is also the most likely month to have fog at lower elevations until about May 25th. Fog is pretty rare in this area in the summer months with 5-10 days of low elevation fog. The winds average 8 mph. For more May Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in May

The May weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is still colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher, and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. On driving tours, like Wildlife Tours and Best of Rocky Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 36°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat are always important. Mid morning and early evening temps usually warm up to light jacket weather at low elevations. At higher elevations it will still be rather cold and brisk most days.

May is still in our Winter Hiking conditions where it is usually around 40°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 10-15mph, and wind chills often are around 35°F. Sections of trails will start to melt out by the end of May but still expect to need ice cleats and hiking poles until about June 10th.

Best May Wildlife

May is a good time to see Bighorn Sheep, reliably until the 25th, usually at binocular distances and sometimes much closer. Mule Deer often become very common sights all over Estes Park the lower parts of Rocky Mountain National Park. Small Mammals like Colorado Chipmunks, Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, and Yellow-bellied Marmots get much more active on the warm days.

The end of May is the start of large hooved animal baby season, with the first reports of Elk Calves around May 19th. Elk cows become very dangerous during this time for about 3 weeks. Never approach or even walk by a female elk that is alone during that time.

Moose are usually seen everyday, often at close distances. Bull Moose will have only small antlers by this time.

*Note: We can always find Elk in May, but their coats are changing and they can look a bit rough as they transition to their summer coat. Bulls will have medium sized fuzzy nub antlers and that can be a cool encounter as they keep growing.

May Cons

May is at the transition of Winter and Spring. Winter Weather is not uncommon, and if you are very unlucky once every 5-8 years we could get a blizzard of 20-40 inches of snow in a single day.

Walking Trails around Bear Lake and Sprague Lake between mid March through mid May are very icy and require Ice Cleats and Hiking Poles to safely walk around them on a Winter Best of Rocky Tour or Winter Hiking Tour. Lower elevation areas are usually snow and ice free and safe to walk.

Spring is the only time of year I do not recommend Hiking Tours to most people unless you feel very comfortable walking on icy snow packed trails that can be really slippery. All hiking trails have some level of incline and decline so those icy conditions are not something we can avoid. We provide Ice Cleats and hiking poles to help you stay safe.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park Roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

The Timed Entry Permit system starts on the Monday before Memorial Day. Be sure to check the date they go on sale if you need Timed Entry Permits for Bear Lake Road morning hikes.

The Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday. The holiday weekend of Memorial Day can be very busy, so be sure to get out early and late to enjoy the park with less crowds.

Spring Photo Ops  May Availability

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What is Estes Park like in June


June is the best time for

June is the best month for baby animals, and to see wildlife in general at large numbers and often closer range. June is the best month to see the most moose in a day in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our record for moose sightings in a day is 26. Snow is still on the mountains making June one of the most photogenic times of the year. Lower valley meadows start to bloom in Mid June. Snow walls can be seen along sections of Trail Ridge Road.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in June

The weather in June in Estes Park averages highs of 69°F and lows of 42°F in the first half of the month, and increases to highs of 74°F and lows of 46°F in the last week of the month. June days have a 23% chance of precipitation, mostly in the form of afternoon thunderstorms forming around 1pm and lasting until about 5pm or so. June days are clear to partly cloudy 66% of the time. The winds average 6 mph. For more June Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in June

The standard summer weather pattern is clear mornings with little to no clouds, then around 10am clouds start to build and by early afternoon storms form most days and last a half hour to multiple hours often clearing around 5-6pm. Be sure to plan any hikes in the early mornings to avoid these storms and the risk of lightning strike. This is why our Hiking Tours are only offered in the mornings. All hikes regardless of distance needs to get you back to the car by 1:30pm to stay safe and dry.

Early morning tours are often around 37°F, with some wind and often warming at lower elevations to 65°F by mid morning. Afternoon tours start warmer in the 60's-70's°F and once we climb to higher elevation it cools down quickly. Winds of 5-30 mph are common on the tundra and can make even the hottest summer days chilly enough for a winter coat.

In the summer months of June, July, August, and early September we usually have 1-3 days in the month that are rainy, cloudy, and cold blocking all views of the peaks. Those days can be ok for wildlife at close range, but usually we won't find sheep, and maybe not moose. Elk, Mule Deer, and some small mammals are out on these rare summer dreary days. Cloudy wet days can be great for waterfalls and flowers.

Best June Wildlife

If you want to see the most variety of wildlife, June is the best month of the year. Elk sightings are very common both cows and bull elk with velveted antlers, moose are easily seen at medium and distant views, mule deer are active, bighorn sheep are found almost every day at binocular and spotting scope distances with a few close sightings near Sheep Lakes and Milner Pass. Yellow-bellied Marmots, American Pika and Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels are very active. On an evening tour we can skip the moose and target Beavers and if we have enough time muskrats at different locations.

Most baby animals are born between May 25th and June 15th. Baby animals of all species start off June as itty bitty babies and start doubling in size nearly every 2 weeks. Elk and Moose cows become very dangerous during this time for about 3 weeks as they protect their newborns. Never approach or even walk by a female elk or moose that is alone during that time.

June is also the best birding month for all of our migrating species. Mountain Bluebirds, Western Tanagers, and some years Brown-capped Rosy Finches up high are all possible sightings.

June Cons

Summer is the high season and it can get crowded. You need to start early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the afternoon storms. I always like to say, "There is a reason it is busy, as summer is one of the best seasons in Rocky."

Trails in June above 9,000ft will still have snow and ice. The higher you go the longer the snow and ice will persist on the trails. Be sure to have Ice Cleats and Hiking Poles.

The Timed Entry Permit system runs from late May to late October. Remember guided tours do not require you to get a Timed Entry Permit. If you enter the park on your own you do not need a permit for Bear Lake Road before 5am, and the rest of the park's roads before 9am, but there are usually long lines starting at 7:30am until 9am for those without Timed Entry Permits. Permits are not required for anything except Bear Lake Road after 2pm, while the Bear Lake Road Timed Entry Permit (currently called Access Plus) ends at 6pm. I highly recommend visiting the park on your own early morning and late evening, and if you do that correctly and remember these above limited times you should never need a Timed Entry Permit to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. Do note however you do need some kind of Day, Week, Annual, or Lifetime Park Pass to enter the park, which if needed can be purchased at the park gates.

Bear Lake Parking Lot will likely be full by 7:30am or so most days, and earlier on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. The Bear Lake Shuttle runs from 6:30am to 7:30pm if the Bear Lake Lot is full. On most days even the Park & Ride Shuttle Lot on Bear Lake Road will fill up in the mid day. The Alpine Visitor Center Parking Lot will usually fill up around 10:30am or so, and stay busy until about 4pm most days. All small trailheads with 5-15 parking spots will generally fill up before 8am. 

Summer Photo Ops  June Availability

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What is Estes Park like in July


July is the best time for

July is the best month for Alpine Wildflowers just after the 4th, and subalpine wildflowers later in the month. July is when Pika start to collect their winter Hay stacks. 

On average July is the last month to see snow on the peaks, but most trails even in the high country will be snow free.

Old Fall River Road opens for the season on the Friday before the 4th of July.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in July

The weather in July in Estes Park averages highs of 76°F and lows of 49°F . July days have a 23% chance of precipitation, mostly in the form of afternoon thunderstorms forming around 1pm and lasting until about 5pm or so. July days are clear to partly cloudy 68% of the time, especially in the mornings with clouds increasing most afternoons. The winds average 5 mph. For more July Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in July

The standard summer weather pattern is clear mornings with little to no clouds, then around 10am clouds start to build and by early afternoon storms form most days and last a half hour to multiple hours often clearing around 5-6pm. Be sure to plan any hikes in the early mornings to avoid these storms and the risk of lightning strike. This is why our Hiking Tours are only offered in the mornings, and why our evening tours start later. All hikes regardless of distance need to get you back to the car by 1:30pm to stay safe and dry.

Early morning tours are often around 37°F on Trail Ridge Road, with some wind and often warming at lower elevations to 70°F by mid morning. Afternoon tours start warmer in the 60's-70's°F and once we climb to higher elevation it cools down quickly. Winds of 5-30 mph are common on the tundra and can make even the hottest summer days chilly enough for a winter coat.

In the summer months of June, July, August, and early September we usually have 1-3 days in the month that are rainy, cloudy, and cold blocking all views of the peaks. Those days can be ok for wildlife at close range, but usually we won't find sheep, and maybe not moose. Elk, Mule Deer, and a few small mammals are out on these rare summer dreary days. Cloudy wet days can be great for waterfalls and flowers.

Best July Wildlife

July is a great month for Wildlife viewing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Elk and Moose sightings are common, with bulls becoming most common in the high country. Small Mammals are active at all elevations, with Marmots and Pika being very active in the mid mornings and early evenings. As we hit Mid July Bighorn Sheep start to get more challenging as they leave the closer viewing areas due to increased hiker activity in the high country. Mid July through August is when we usually have a few close encounters with elk cows and calves, and Mule Deer, while the bull Elk and Moose start to move far from the road and trail systems so views are more often through Binoculars and the spotting scopes.

July Cons

Summer is the high season and it can get crowded. July is the busiest month of the year. You need to start early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the afternoon storms. I always like to say, "There is a reason it is busy, as summer is one of the best seasons in Rocky."

The Timed Entry Permit system runs from late May to late October. Remember guided tours do not require you to get a Timed Entry Permit. If you enter the park on your own you do not need a permit for Bear Lake Road before 5am, and the rest of the park's roads before 9am, but there are usually long lines starting at 7:30am until 9am for those without Timed Entry Permits. Permits are not required for anything except Bear Lake Road after 2pm, while the Bear Lake Road Timed Entry Permit (currently called Access Plus) ends at 6pm. I highly recommend visiting the park on your own early morning and late evening, and if you do that correctly and remember these above limited times you should never need a Timed Entry Permit to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. Do note however you do need some kind of Day, Week, Annual, or Lifetime Park Pass to enter the park, which if needed can be purchased at the park gates.

Bear Lake Parking Lot will likely be full by 7:30am or so most days, and earlier on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. The Bear Lake Shuttle runs from 6:30am to 7:30pm if the Bear Lake Lot is full. On most days even the Park & Ride Shuttle Lot on Bear Lake Road will fill up in the mid day. The Alpine Visitor Center Parking Lot will usually fill up around 10:30am or so, and stay busy until about 4pm most days. All small trailheads with 5-15 parking spots will generally fill up before 8am.

Summer Photo Ops  July Availability

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What is Estes Park like in August


August is the best time for

August is the best time of year to see vast numbers of animals in larger herds, but often at a distance from above on Trail Ridge Road. Largest Bull Elk will lose the velvet on their antlers between August 8th and the 16th. Around Aug 18th closer moose sightings start to occur again at two lower lakes but they are unpredictable.

Late August is the best time to likely see Bears in Rocky Mountain National Park as they seek out ripe choke cherries and currants. Black Bear sightings are extremely rare in Rocky, but Late August through Early September is peak berry season, and the only time to likely see black bears at a distance on their favorite berry patches usually at binocular and spotting scope ranges.

August is a great time for morning hikes as the trail system is completely snow and ice free, and mornings offer pretty consistent good weather. Early August is the end of Subalpine flower season, and great time for the flowers to add to the beauty of a hike.

Mid August is the start of Autumn on the Tundra of Trail Ridge Road, and the soft yellows and reds of tundra plants start to color the landscape more and more through the month. Yes, Mid August is Autumn in the high country.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in August

The weather in August in Estes Park averages highs of 75°F and lows of 47°F . August days have a 23% chance of precipitation, mostly in the form of afternoon thunderstorms forming around 1pm and lasting until about 5pm or so. August days are clear to partly cloudy 68% of the time, especially in the mornings with clouds increasing most afternoons. The winds average 5 mph. For more August Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in August

The standard summer weather pattern is clear mornings with little to no clouds, then around 10am clouds start to build and by early afternoon storms form most days and last a half hour to multiple hours often clearing around 5-6pm, but sometimes lasting all evening. Be sure to plan any hikes in the early mornings to avoid these storms and the risk of lightning strike. This is why our Hiking Tours are only offered in the mornings, and why our evening tours start later. All hikes regardless of distance need to get you back to the car by 1:30pm to stay safe and dry.

Early morning tours are often around 40°F on Trail Ridge Road, with some wind and often warming at lower elevations to 70°F by mid morning. Afternoon tours start warmer in the 70's-low 80's°F and once we climb to higher elevation it cools down quickly. Winds of 5-30 mph are common on the tundra and can make even the hottest summer days chilly enough for a winter coat.

Later August afternoons are the most likely days of the year to have storms that continue through the evening. In mid to late August we will generally cut short or cancel one or two evening tours due to storms blocking all views or making it too dangerous, due to lightning.

In the summer months of June, July, August, and early September we usually have 1-3 days in the month that are rainy, cloudy, and cold blocking all views of the peaks. Those days can be ok for wildlife at close range, but usually we won't find sheep, and maybe not moose. Elk, Mule Deer, and a few small mammals are out on these rare summer dreary days. Cloudy wet days can be great for waterfalls and flowers.

Best August Wildlife

August is the best time for small mammals, with American Pika gathering flowers and grass for their winter hay stacks. Yellow-bellied Marmots, Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, Colorado Chipmunks, and Least Chipmunks are very active as they start to prepare for winter.

Like mentioned above, early to mid August is the month for see vast herds of elk in the distance on the tundra as they explore the inaccessible mountain areas below the melting snow fields and headwaters of our rivers. Most sightings are at binocular and spotting scope distances but almost every Wildlife and Photo Wildlife Tour we have a close elk sighting. Bull Elk and Moose are special treats as they roam the upper park areas, and every few tours we will have wonderful close encounters in the vehilce.

Around August 20th the elk become a bit less common as they start their migration back to lower elevations. August 23rd or 24th is often the day bull elk will turn on their bachelor herd friends and start their annual pre-rut behaviors. Around that same time we will also hear the first bugles every other tour or so. Pre-rut Elk activity will continue through the end of the month with some days hearing bugles, and the occassional elk sparring and thrashing sighting.

Upper elevation willow bushes start to turn for autumn, so that will often drive the moose to lower elevations through the end of the month. Often in late August finding close moose is more a situation of forgoing other animal viewing options and haunting the few best habitats for the chance of a great sighting near their two favorite lakes.

Beavers will stop being an option once the Elk Meadow Closures start around the end of August.

*Note: Bighorn Sheep sightings are the least common in August as they are only in the most distant areas of the park seen through the spotting scopes on about 20% of Wildlife Tours.

August Cons

August is a bit less busy than other summer months, but weekends are still very busy. There is not a huge dropoff of visition with kids going back to school like there was in the old days. Also by mid August nearly all of the snow will have melted from the mountains.

As mentioned above, Afternoon storms are a bit more common to last into the evenings, and animals are a bit farther away than other summer months. That is why Yellow Wood Guiding offers all of our clients the use of the best optics in the world to see and photograph at nearly any distance we can see. We will have a few close sightings nearly every tour for cow elk and mule deer.

The Timed Entry Permit system runs from late May to late October. Remember guided tours do not require you to get a Timed Entry Permit. If you enter the park on your own you do not need a permit for Bear Lake Road before 5am, and the rest of the park's roads before 9am, but there are usually long lines starting at 7:30am until 9am for those without Timed Entry Permits. Permits are not required for anything except Bear Lake Road after 2pm, while the Bear Lake Road Timed Entry Permit (currently called Access Plus) ends at 6pm. I highly recommend visiting the park on your own early morning and late evening, and if you do that correctly and remember these above limited times you should never need a Timed Entry Permit to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. Do note however you do need some kind of Day, Week, Annual, or Lifetime Park Pass to enter the park, which if needed can be purchased at the park gates.

Bear Lake Parking Lot will likely be full by 7:30am or so most days, and earlier on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. The Bear Lake Shuttle runs from 6:30am to 7:30pm if the Bear Lake Lot is full. On most days even the Park & Ride Shuttle Lot on Bear Lake Road will fill up in the mid day. The Alpine Visitor Center Parking Lot will usually fill up around 10:30am or so, and stay busy until about 4pm most days. All small trailheads with 5-15 parking spots will generally fill up before 8am.

Summer Photo Ops  Aug Availability

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What is Estes Park like in September


September is the best time for

September is the best time for Fall Colors and the Elk Rut.

Early September is often the best time to see black bears in Rocky Mountain National Park.   

Aspens start to change colors in their highest reaches after the first week of September. Fall Color has become much harder to predict with the impacts of climate change. We have seen Fall be as much as 10 days early, and 18 days late depending on that year's conditions. In the last 5 years the Aspens around Bear Lake have turned golden around Sept 20th to the 28th. Below Bear Lake to Sprague Lake colors often peak around the 26th through the 30th. Moraine Park and the lowest elvations of the park are often best between Sept 30th and Oct 8th. Aspens and Cottonwoods lose their leaves rather quickly and all it takes is one cold windy day, or many hot days to cause the leaves to fall or turn brown.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in September

The weather in September in Estes Park averages highs of 70°F and lows of 43°F early in the month, and decreases by the end of the month to 61°F highs and lows of 36°F. September days have a 17% chance of precipitation, mostly in the form of afternoon thunderstorms forming around 1pm and lasting until about 5pm or so. September days are clear to partly cloudy 70% of the time, especially in the mornings with clouds increasing most afternoons. The winds average 6 mph. For more September Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in September

September is a transition month with the first week or so still feeling very summer like. That last week of September is often peak fall.

Early in September continues the standard summer weather pattern with clear mornings of little to no clouds, then around 10am clouds start to build and by early afternoon storms form most days and last a half hour to multiple hours often clearing around 5-6pm, but sometimes lasting all evening.

Mid September is the start of the transition to autumn at mid to lower elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park. Some days are very sunny and partly cloudy, with chances for afternoon storms and some dreary days will appear as the month continues. The first snow fall in the high country is usually around Sept 15th and that can cause Trail Ridge Road to be temporarily closed.

Early morning tours are often around 40°F on Wildlife Tours, with some wind and often warming at lower elevations to 60°F by mid morning. Afternoon tours start warmer in the 60's-low 70's°F and once we climb to higher elevation it cools down quickly.

Best September Wildlife

Early September is still very summer like and the Elk Pre-Rut behavior will continue from its Late August start. Bull Elk will start to become rather dangerous and more unpredictable. Elk bugles, herding by smaller and then larger males, and thrashing are all common behaviors, but all sightings are highly dependent on the weather. Warmer days above 70°F will often have sightings that are much farther away as the elk seek out shade and come out later in the evenings, or very early in the mornings.

The true Elk Rut activity starts on Sept 8th and last through Sept 21st for the largest bulls. Around Sept 18th-22nd the largest bulls will tire out and leave the female herds, leading to a magical unknown day where the 2nd tier bulls fight amongst themselves for their chance at dominace. Those 2nd tier bulls will have herds after that until early October.

Moose sightings start to decrease drastically right before their rut season starts at the end of September. The Moose rely on green Willow bush leaves and aquatic vegetation for their summer food. By Mid September most Willows will turn yellow so sightings may only be seen near a few lakes with preferred aquatic vegetation until they also turn brown and like magic the moose will disappear deeper in the woods. Moose sightings decline through September and seeing even one moose a tour is more luck than skill some days.

Bighorn Sheep start to become far easier to see around Mid September, so as the moose become less likely the sheep become more likely.

Most small mammals that hibernate will start their sleep cycles in early to mid September. On warm days Chipmunks are still very active, but Marmots and Ground Squirrels will stop being available.

September Cons

September during the Elk Rut, the lower park meadows and around the Aspen groves are very busy. There is no secret that Elk mate in the fall and golden aspen leaves are beautiful. September is the second busiest month of the year. The best meadows where Elk are most active are closed to walking so the elk are free to move around, so parking and standing is limited to the edge of the road. We can't find elk in good viewing locations outside of these well known locations most days so we need to join the elk viewing crowds, but that also offers us good cover incase the elk get close. My job as a guide is to offer you the best views and information and knowing a few lesser known side roads to offer a great experience.

There can be a 15-25 minute wait to get onto Bear Lake Road in the mornings between 6am and 7am. Evenings leaving the Bear Lake Road can also have long lines as many people leave at the same time right before dark.

Because parking in the Bear Lake Road area is very limited we often have to choose between the Elk and Aspens for mid to late fall. We also need to leave extra early or late to make sure we get parking near the best aspen groves along Bear Lake Road. We can not change plans or we risk not getting a limited parking spot.

Bear Lake Parking Lot will likely be full by 7am or so most days, and earlier on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. The Bear Lake Shuttle runs from 6:30am to 7:30pm if the Bear Lake Lot is full. On most days even the Park & Ride Shuttle Lot on Bear Lake Road will fill up in the mid day. The Alpine Visitor Center Parking Lot will usually fill up around 10:30am or so, and stay busy until about 4pm most days. All small trailheads with 5-15 parking spots will generally fill up before 8am.

The Timed Entry Permit system runs from late May to late October. Remember guided tours do not require you to get a Timed Entry Permit. If you enter the park on your own you do not need a permit for Bear Lake Road before 5am, and the rest of the park's roads before 9am, but there are usually long lines starting at 7:30am until 9am for those without Timed Entry Permits. Permits are not required for anything except Bear Lake Road after 2pm, while the Bear Lake Road Timed Entry Permit (currently called Access Plus) ends at 6pm. I highly recommend visiting the park on your own early morning and late evening, and if you do that correctly and remember these above limited times you should never need a Timed Entry Permit to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. Do note however you do need some kind of Day, Week, Annual, or Lifetime Park Pass to enter the park, which if needed can be purchased at the park gates.

Summer Photo Ops  Sept Availability

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What is Estes Park like in October


October is the best time for

Early October is the best time for fall color at lower elevations with less crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park. Usually by Oct 10th to 15th most trees will be leafless.

Mid October is the start of the Bighorn Sheep Pre-Rut behavior. Mule Deer also become more active as the elk calm down from their rut behavior.

Summer and Fall 4 hour and 8 hour Tours run through Oct 13th. Winter 3.5 hour Tours start on Oct 14th when the elk become less active and the fall colors usually end.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in October

The weather in October in Estes Park averages highs of 60°F and lows of 35°F early in the month, and decreases by the end of the month to 48°F highs and lows of 27°F. October days have a 16% chance of precipitation. October is usually the first month for snow in the town of Estes Park, with snow storms of 2-4 inches not uncommon near the end of the month. October days are clear to partly cloudy 66% of the time. The winds average 6 mph. For more October Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in October

Early in October is the start of snowy weather in the lower elevations of the national park. Usually the snow melts the next day, but those snow days of 1-4 inches are foggy, cloudy and cold. Those can be great wildlife days and can be wonderful for the trees that still have fall colors. October mornings and evenings often require winter coats and hats at every elevation of the national park. Mid day can still be comfortable light jacket weather, but those late evenings often end with shivering for unprepared folks.

Mid October is the start of the transition to winter in the upper elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park. Lakes like Bear Lake, Dream and a bit later Sprague Lake will start to freeze around Oct 20th. Snow starts to accumlate on the peaks, and the winter winds will start to blow in the highest elevations.

Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park start to get icy and snowy by the end of the month. If you plan to hike be sure to have Ice Cleats and Hiking Poles which we provide on our Hiking Tours.

Best October Wildlife

The Elk Rut is still on going during the beginning of October. The 2nd place bulls will have herds around the lower elevations of the park and start to move more into the town of Estes Park. By Mid October most of the Elk have moved into the town of Estes Park and out of the national park. Some of the best Elk Rut behavior and photos can come from the areas around the town golf courses. Elk fights are most common in this season as many lower ranking elk bulls surround the female elk who are ironically already pregnant from the early rut. With f2.8 lenses like our Nikon 70-200 f2.8 and 400mm f2.8 we can take great images where the town elements melt away with blurry backgrounds for fantastic elk shots.

Late in October the larger Bull Elk will leave the female herds to just the smallest bulls as the main part of the elk rut is over. Those larger bulls become very challenging to find as they try to recover from their extreme fasting during the elk rut.

October is one of the best months to see Bighorn Sheep, especially Bighorn Rams. The Bighorn Sheep Pre-Rut starts around early October, and Oct 15th to Nov 30th is peak rut activity. We often find rams with ewes nearly everyday with about half of tours offering views within 200 yards. Some days we have sheep sightings right on the side of the road. Most days binoculars give us a great view for our most camouflaged wildlife, as the sheep often blend in the grey rocks of the region.

Turkey sightings start to become much more common in October, often replacing our small mammal sightings in the summer with a different amazing animal.

*Note: Moose sightings in mid October become very unlikely. Early October it is a rare treat to get a breif moose sighting. There is a 20% chance to see Moose if we have perfect dry roads and drive for the last half of the Winter Wildlife Tour far outside the national park. This option means we often do not visit the national park, or see elk, mule deer, and turkey.

October Cons

Oct 1st through the 6th there is a chance for US Government Shutdowns that could close down all access to the National Park for multiple days. In those times the only available tours are Wildlife Tours and Photo Wildlife Tours for Elk, Mule Deer, and Bighorn Sheep work as we can travel outside of the National Park to find these species.

Mid to Late October is the start of winter and Trail Ridge Road will close on average between Oct 15th and the 25th. Trail Ridge Road can close for the day or the season on any October day.

The Time Entry Permit system ends two Mondays after Columbus Day. Remember guided tours do not require you to get a Timed Entry Permit. If you enter the park on your own you do not need a permit for Bear Lake Road before 5am, and the rest of the park's roads before 9am, but there are usually long lines starting at 7:30am until 9am for those without Timed Entry Permits. Permits are not required for anything except Bear Lake Road after 2pm, while the Bear Lake Road Timed Entry Permit (currently called Access Plus) ends at 6pm. I highly recommend visiting the park on your own early morning and late evening, and if you do that correctly and remember these above limited times you should never need a Timed Entry Permit to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park. Do note however you do need some kind of Day, Week, Annual, or Lifetime Park Pass to enter the park, which if needed can be purchased at the park gates.

Fall Photo Ops  Oct Availability

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What is Estes Park like in November


November is the best time for

November is the best time for the Bighorn Sheep Rut and the Mule Deer Rut in Estes Park.

November is one of the best months for Winter Clouds, and some days produce wave clouds that can make amazing sunrises and sunsets.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in November

The weather in November in Estes Park averages highs of 45°F and lows of 25°F early in the month, and decreases by the end of the month to 36°F highs and lows of 17°F. November days have a 14% chance of precipitation. November is our first snowy month of the winter, with most snow falls averaging 1-5 inches.  November days are clear to partly cloudy 60% of the time. The winds average 9 mph. For more November Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in November

The November weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is always colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher, and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. Often the mountains are covered in low clouds about half of November days. On cloudy days we can explore lower elevations in the Estes Park Region and still often get great views of canyons, cliffs, and lower mountains. Clear and partly cloudy days offer amazing views usually a few times a week. 

On driving tours, like Winter Wildlife Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 25°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat with layers are always important, but remember we have heated seats in a closed vehicle so we can warm up after any cold winter tour experiences.

In the lower valleys of Rocky, it is common to have the meadow grasses and trees to be snow free, and as you climb higher to the Bear Lake area or Hidden Valley the snow starts to build up to sometimes a number of feet.

While on our Winter Hiking Tours it is usually around 20°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 5-20mph, and wind chills often are around 0°F. Once we get off the lake and back into the forest the winds calm and it warms up.

See our Winter Weather Page for more details and visuals on what winter is like.

Winter Weather Info

Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are icy and snowy all month. If you plan to hike be sure to have Ice Cleats and Hiking Poles which we provide on our Hiking Tours.

Best November Wildlife

Bighorn Sheep take center stage as the Bighorn Rut can offer near daily views of Rams with Ewes. Almost every year we get one or two tours where we see Rams fighting, hitting head on at 35mph. Some days offer roadside sightings and many days provide great binocular views with close ups with the spotting scopes.

Mule Deer go through their own mating rut season in later November offering great views of big bucks stalking does. On the best days we can see both Bighorn Sheep and Mule Deer at their peak of behavior.

Elk will end their rut season the first few days of November and bugling stops. November is when bull elk start to gather in bachelor herds and become common sightings again. Sparring between the younger bulls is a near daily morning and evening Winter Wildlife Tour sighting. Most of the Cow Elk herds will migrate out of the Estes Valley and spend time in the foothills and the edge of the Great Plains.

On an average Winter Wildlife Tour we see Elk bulls and sometimes huge cow elk herds, Mule Deer, Bighorn Sheep ewes, and turkey around the National Park. On good weather days we often will explore around the Estes Park Region and we can see Bald Eagles, Magpies, Ravens, and Prairie Dogs. The female elk have mostly migrated to the east of Estes Park in the winter.

*Note: Moose are usually not seen in the winter months of November, December and January. There is a 20% chance to see Moose if we have perfect dry roads and drive for the last half of the Winter Wildlife Tour far outside the national park. This option means we often do not visit the national park, or see elk, mule deer, and turkey.

November Cons

Winter weather in the Rocky Mountains is often cold, windy, and harsh. There is a common mountain saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear." If you are well prepared November can be a great time to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.

If it snows more than 1 inch that day the roads around Estes Park, especially Highway 36 to Longmont, Boulder, and Denver, Highway 34 to Loveland and Fort Collins, and Highway 7 to Allenspark and Nederland are very dangerous and slow. We do cancel tours depending on the tour type and amount of fresh snow a few times in November.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday. Weekends and the Thanksgiving Holiday week are often busy, while the weekdays outside of the holiday are much calmer.

Winter Photo Ops  Nov Availability

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What is Estes Park like in December


December is the best time for

December is the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park to experience Winter. Snowshoeing Tour starts usually around the Christmas holiday season once we have enough snow. The upper elevation lakes will be frozen, snow covered, and safe to walk on usually around Dec 25th or so.

What is the weather like in Estes Park in December

The weather in December in Estes Park averages highs of 32°F and lows of 14°F. December days have a 16% chance of precipitation. December is usually the first month for consistent snow in the town of Estes Park, with snow storms of 2-4 inches not uncommon near the end of the month. December days are cloudy or overcast 42% of the time. The winds average 10 mph and wind gusts are often 20-35mph. For more December Estes Park Weather averages see WeatherSpark.com

Rocky Mountain National Park Weather in December

The December weather in Rocky Mountain National Park is always colder, windier, and cloudier than Estes Park because the national park is at least 1,000 ft higher, and in the highest areas we may visit 2,500 ft higher. The higher you go the harsher the weather. Often the mountains are covered in low clouds about half of December days. On cloudy days we can explore lower elevations in the Estes Park Region and still often get great views of canyons, cliffs, and lower mountains. Clear and partly cloudy days offer amazing views usually a few times a week. 

On driving tours, like Winter Wildlife Tours, morning and evening temps are close to 18°F. Gloves, a winter hat, and winter coat with layers are always important, but remember we have heated seats in a closed vehicle so we can warm up after any cold winter tour experiences.

In the lower valleys of Rocky, it is common to have the meadow grasses and tree to be snow free, and as you climb higher to the Bear Lake area or Hidden Valley the snow starts to build up to sometimes a number of feet.

While on our Winter Hiking & Snowshoeing Tours it is usually around 15°F, winds at Dream Lake are often 10-35mph, and wind chills often are around -10°F. Once we get off the lake and back into the forest the winds calm and it warms up.

See our Winter Weather Page for more details and visuals on what winter is like.

Winter Weather Info

Trails in Rocky Mountain National Park are snowy, but usually less icy often not requiring much special gear if you stay on the hard packed trails.  

Best December Wildlife

The mating seasons are over for all of our large animals by mid December so females are pregnant living in their winter herds and males calm down and reform bachelor herds. Elk, Mue Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Turkey, and Prairie Dogs (on good weather days) are all great targets. Smaller Bull Elk are often sparring each morning and evening. Pine Squirrels, winter birds like Magpie and Stellars Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, and American Dippers are out often in the right habitats.

The female elk have mostly migrated far to the east of Estes Park for the winter. We sometimes find them while looking for Bighorn Sheep.

*Note: Moose are usually not seen in the winter months of November, December and January. There is a 20% chance to see Moose if we have perfect dry roads and drive for the last half of the Winter Wildlife Tour far outside the national park. This option means we often do not visit the national park, or see elk, mule deer, and turkey.

December Cons

Winter weather in the Rocky Mountains is often cold, windy, and harsh. There is a common mountain saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong gear." If you are well prepared December can be a great time to experience Rocky Mountain National Park.

If it snows more than 1 inch that day the roads around Estes Park, especially Highways 36 to Longmont, Boulder, and Denver, Highway 34 to Loveland and Fort Collins, and Highway 7 to Allenspark and Nederland are very dangerous and slow. We do cancel tours depending on the tour type and amount of fresh snow a few times in December.

I would highly recommend renting your own vehicle with All-Wheel Drive, and you need to stay in Estes Park. Driving up to Estes Park from Boulder or Denver on a snowy day almost always means a cancelled tour. The day after the snow, roads are usually dry and fine to drive on. If Rocky Mountain National Park roads are snow covered the park service enforces the Colorado Traction Law and will not allow you to enter Rocky without Winter Rated Tires with good tread depth and All-Wheel Drive.

Bear Lake Parking Lot can fill up by mid morning on Friday through Sunday. Weekends and the Christmas to New Years Holiday week are often busy, while the weekdays outside of the holiday are much slower.

Winter Photo Ops  Dec Availability

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Yellow Wood Guiding is Authorized by the National Park Service, Department of Interior to conduct services in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fees for service are strictly for educational nature experiences and photography instruction, not transportation.


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