Sunrise on the Fall River in Horseshoe Park on a Rocky Mountain National Park Photo Tour

Spring Photo Options | April - May
Estes Park Photo Tours

The best Rocky Mountain National Park Spring Photo locations pre-scouted for you

Yellow Wood Guiding offers private Estes Park Spring Photography Tours of Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado.


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In your booking email select one or a few of these options and I can plan a trip to try to get as many great shots as we can. Spring is a very hard to predict weather season. Some days it can be warm and sunny, the next it can be completely cloudly with no views of the peaks, and the next it can snow from a few inches. Every few years it can snow 30-45 inches in 24 hours. As long as road conditions are safe we can almost always find something fantastic to photograph.

Unless otherwise stated these tour options can be part of a 4, 6, or 8 hour trip. Don't see the option you want, we can customize a trip just for you.

Plan Your Perfect Spring Tour  Winter Weather


Spring Large Wildlife


Spring Wildlife - All Spring - In the Spring season we generally see Elk, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep ewes everyday while Coyotes and Big Horn Rams are more rare. The Big Horn Sheep are often close to the road in April and into May. We also find Pine Squirrels, Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels, Wyoming Ground Squirrels, Magpies, and sometimes various hawks. Generally best morning and evenings. We always find something to photograph.

Moose in the willow bushes on an Wildlife Photo Tour in Estes Park
Moose

In the spring months Moose are about a 40% animal, usually cows but occassially bulls with small growing antlers. Often they are in dense areas, but sometimes we get very lucky and find them in one of two easier access lakes. Mid April is the start of chances, with May becoming often an 85% chance of seeing a moose in a good location and distance.

Bighorn Shep Ram Headshot
Bighorn Sheep

With the arrival of spring the Big Horn Sheep come down the mountain to eat the fresh green grass. Spring is without a doubt the best time to reliably see Big Horns, usually ewes and yearling lambs are seen, rarely we find rams. Late April and early May is thee best time to photograph rams generally. 70% chance to find Ewes, 20% chance for Rams.

Mule Deer doe in the morning light on a Spring Estes Park Photo Tour
Mule Deer

Mule Deer are very common in the Spring time with mixed gender herds often at good closer distances. Days we look for them we can often get a few right out the window. They have nicer coats than the Elk and Sheep, but only tiny numbs of antlers starting to grow in April.  

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Elk 

Just a note, the Bull Elk lose their antlers around March 15th, so by late April and through May the bulls will have small velveted nubs for antlers. Also they shed their winter coats in April - May so they can look rather unkept. With those new velveted antlers Spring is headshot time. 100% chance to see.



Spring Small Wildlife & Birds


Yellow-bellied Marmots kissing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Squirrels, Marmots, and Chipmunks 

As the spring progresses we see more and more ground squirrels, chipmunks, and yellow-bellied marmots. All of them make great subjects, as on warm days they sit around on a warm rock a good bit getting ready for summer. May they become an everyday feature. 80% chance to find with good weather.

Bald Eagle headshot
Osprey, Bald Eagles, & Ducks

 In the last few years the Osprey nest poles have started to produce great sightings. Around the lake and river area of town there are one or two pairs of Bald Eagles that we could target as well. Often they sit on the power lines, but waiting for a flight shot can be productive. While we wait ducks on Lake Estes can offer nice photos as well.

Coyote close up on an Estes Park Photo Tour with Yellow Wood Guiding
Coyotes

Coyotes are very active in the mid morning through mid afternoon. They are generally alone, but sometimes in a small pack hunting small rodents. We can often get within 40 yards, and sometimes they are just outside the car window. Its a great time to get them leaping through the grass. 10% chance to find, and sadly have become less common for good photos over the last few years.

Muskrat close up with food at Lily lake
Muskrat Close Up and farther Beavers

Rocky's beaver population is just starting to come back . Most days we can see the beavers but getting clear shots is about a 40% at our one area. In a area about 20 minutes away there is a Muskrat colony with a near 100% chance to see them close. In that same location there is a 5% chance for moose in the lake as well. They are always in very low light right before dark and almost never out in the mornings.

Mountain Bluebird in Estes Park
Perching Birds

Spring migration starts in March and on nicer Spring days targeting birds like Mountain Bluebirds, Stellars Jay, Blackbilled Magpie, American Dipper, and a number of other mountain species. Mountain Bluebirds are often drive by shooting targets, others require a long lens on the trail.

Great Horned Owl on the nest on an Estes Park Photo Tour
Nesting Great Horned Owls

(NOTE 2024: Currently there are no activie accessible Owl nests on public land.) Some years we have a chance for viewing and photographing Great Horned Owls nesting. This is a very long shot of 500mm or more but from early March through late May we can get good views when we have a nest.



Spring Sunrise


NOTE: Sunrises in the Spring are often really great when we get good weather. April and May are our wettest months so cloudy morning are very common giving us no color at all. About 40% of April mornings we get great color in the mountains, clear blue skies, very few clouds, a just a bit of wind. 60% of May Mornings are clear.

Deer Ridge Overlook Spring Sunrise on a Rocky Mountain National Park Photography Tour
Deer Ridge Sunrise

Sunrise from Deer Ridge Overlook is a very easy to get to location with a grand panoramic view of the Front Range. You can also get great telephoto shots of the iconic Long's Peak summit and a few other great angles. From Deer Ridge we can hit many other locations and wildlife hot spots. Requires a start of 30 minutes before sunrise.

Spring Moraine Park Sunrise on Bear Lake Road
Moraine Park River Sunrise - Short Walk

Moraine Park offers a great view of the mountains with the Big Thompson River running through a grassy meadow. This is a drive up location which requires a start of 30 minutes before sunrise. The short walk can be very wet when the snow melt begins in May. This option gives us a lot of time to target other areas for more landscapes, wildlife, or sparse spring flowers.

Horseshoe Park Overlook Snowy Sunrise
Horseshoe Park Sunrise

If you're looking for an easy set up but a great landscape, Horseshoe Park is your place. The Mummy Range gets the best morning light all winter and this is a quick and easy set of locations to get to. The start time required is 30 minutes before sunrise. Below is Sheep Lakes which as spring progresses can have all kinds of wildlife from Moose, Elk, and Sheep.

Sprague Lake sunrise with fresh snow and refelction in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sprague Lake or Storm Pass Sunrise

Sprague Lake offers a great mountain range reflecting in a subalpine lake, dependent on the lake thawing by May. Some mornings you can get great reflections, and the wide view offers a good number of compositions. This destination requires a start time 45 minutes before sunrise. Storm Pass is nearby and is a great option if the lake is windy.

Moraine Park Overlook hike black and white
Moraine Park Overlook - Steep .25 Mile 

Moraine Park is a grand glacial valley, and after this short but steeper 175 foot climb we gain a fantastic high view over the entire valley, with the river snaking below in the green meadows with a large view of Stone's Peak. This short hike will take most fit people about 15 minutes with a few stops to catch your breath, so it requires a 45 minute before sunrise start. From this location we can also shoot a very nice view of Long's Peak, as well as a different view of the Mummy Range. There are also some nice flowers, lichen, fallen trees, and rocks for Macro shots.

Dream Lake April Sunrise with the ice metling out giving a reflection
Dream Lake Sunrise - Icy Hike

The trail will be icy and much more difficult in spring, so we will use traction cleats which are provided. Sunrise at Dream Lake is one of the best 1 mile hike photo spots in the park, and it produces some fantastic photos, but spring weather is very unpredictable. This tour requires a start of 1 hour and 30 minutes before sunrise. Dream Lake can be part of a 6 hour Hiking Photo Tour. In the 6 hour option we will continue up to Emerald Lake which offers more mountain views. On the way down hill we can stop at Nymph and Bear Lake for landscapes.



Spring Sunset, Waterfalls & Flowers


Spring sunset on Longs Peak from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake Sunset

This option takes us to most popular lake in Rocky, but in the winter it takes on a different look. Almost always the ice of the lake is snow covered so usually its just the amazing mountain view getting the evening light. Long's Peak from Bear Lake is thee only high peak that gets evening light in the winter time that doesn't require a rather long trek to capture. The lake will start to melt in May.

Alberta Falls on Bear Lake Road
Streams and Falls - short walk

Mid April - May offers some great chances to photograph river cascades and waterfalls as they grow in strength as the snow melt. These can be drive up or hiking destinations. Learn how to get that silky water effect in camera. Best with no light on them so a great option after sunrise or before sunset. There are a number of great small streams and falls in a few different areas of the park. 

Early Buttercups in bloom in April
Spring Flower Macros

The first flowers of spring generally show up on April 5th or so. Until late April they are very rare and weather dependent. By May there is a better selection of flowers to shot. And by late May the options are great.

Chasm Falls on Old Fall River Road
Chasm Falls - 2 mile Hike

Late May - This waterfall is a 30 minute walk up Fall River Road. Chasm Falls offers a few different shots and other white water cascades. Chasm is a great option in the late afternoon because the falls are shadowed by 5pm.


Winter Tour Fees - April

(Total Is Shown NOT Per Person, Rate Is The Same For 1 Or 2 Guests)


Guests 1 or 2 3 or 4
3.5 Hour Tour Total (Most Recommended) $245 $325
6 Hour Tour Total $445 $525
8 Hour Tour Total $575 $655

Summer Tour Fees - May

(Total Is Shown NOT Per Person, Rate Is The Same For 1 Or 2 Guests)


Guests 1 or 2 3 or 4
4 Hour Tour Total (Most Recommended) $325 $425
6 Hour Tour Total $525 $675
8 Hour Tour Total $700 $900

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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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