When you visit Rocky Mountain National Park, you have several choices of which entry point to use. Learn about each of them and find the entrance station that will best meet your needs.
Rocky Mountain National Park Entrance Stations
There are four main entrance stations to Rocky Mountain National Park. Two of them, Beaver Meadows and Fall River, are just west of the town of Estes Park. In the southeast corner of the park there is an entrance to the Wild Basin area. On the west side of the park is the Kawuneeche entrance, located just north of the town of Grand Lake. These are the only official entry stations into the park.
At the entry station you will be greeted by a ranger. They will ask to see your park pass and ID or offer you the opportunity to purchase one. (Learn about the different park pass options available.) You will need to pay with a credit or debit card, as cash and checks are not accepted. If you only have cash, then stop at one of the visitor center stores to purchase a park pass there before heading to the park entrance.
If you are visiting between late May and mid-October during peak hours, then you will also need to show your timed entry permit to gain entry. After the passes and permits are sorted, they will offer you a park map and a park newspaper. They are also happy to answer quick questions, but you have to keep them very short as there will almost certainly be others waiting behind you. The best places to have your questions answered is at one of the park visitor centers. You can help to move the line move more quickly by having your park pass, permit, and ID ready when you reach the entrance station.
During the summer and autumn, you can expect the entrance stations to be busy for most of the day, and extra busy in the morning from 7:00am-9:30am and in the afternoon from 2:30-4:00pm.
Beaver Meadows Entrance
The main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is located on highway 36 just four miles west of downtown Estes Park. Simply follow highway 36 through downtown Estes Park. Be aware that you'll need to make a left turn at the stoplights onto Moraine Avenue. This road will lead you out of town and to the Beaver Meadows Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. On the way, you'll pass the park entry sign on your right, which is a great place to take family photos, and then the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on your left.
This entrance station has three entry booths which helps traffic to enter more quickly; however, this also tends to be the busiest entrance station. You may experience lines that can stretch up to a mile long during the busy season.
This entrance is right next to the intersection with Bear Lake Road providing you with easy access to this area of the park. Alternatively, continue straight ahead and you'll find yourself on the dramatic Trail Ridge Road which leads over the Continental Divide to the west side of the park and Grand Lake.
Fall River Entrance
Note: During the summer of 2023 the Fall River Entrance is under construction and will be limited to one lane. The NPS recommends entering and exiting the park through the Beaver Meadows Entrance on highway 34 until construction is completed in the fall of 2023.
The Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is located on highway 34 approximately 5 miles east of Estes Park. It is located further north than the Beaver Meadows Entrance. You can get to this entrance without going through the middle of town by following highway 34 up East Wonderview Avenue. Look for that option at the intersection next to McDonald's on the east side of Estes Park. This route will lead you up past the Stanley Hotel.
The Fall River entrance also has three entry booths and can sometimes be a faster way to enter the park when it is busy.
This entrance station gives you access to the Aspenglen Campground, Horseshoe Park, Old Fall River Road, and Trail Ridge Road. You can also access Bear Lake Road, but it requires an additional 10 minutes of driving.
Wild Basin Entrance
The Wild Basin entrance is located 13.5 miles south of Estes Park just off of scenic highway 7. Turn west onto Highway 84 (Wild Basin Road) and follow it for 0.4 miles to the Wild Basin entrance station. You'll pass the popular Wild Basin Lodge just before the entrance.
This entrance station has only one entry booth. It is only staffed in the busy season and during the busiest hours of the day the line can get long. When the parking areas in Wild Basin are full, usually by 9am in the summer, vehicles will be turned away.
After you drive through the entrance station you can park at the Sandbeach Lake Trailhead which is immediately on your right or continue straight ahead on Wild Basin Road for 2 miles to reach the main parking area. This road is gravel and is quite narrow. You'll need to be prepared to pull over regularly to let cars pass that are coming the other way. There are numerous pull-over areas on each side of the road for this purpose.
This entrance gives you access to Sandbeach Lake, Finch & Pear Lake, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls, Thunder Lake, and Bluebird Lake.
The Kawuneeche entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is located 2 miles north of Grand Lake on highway 34. On the way you'll pass the Kawuneeche Visitor Center on your right.
This entrance station has two booths and is generally one of the quieter entrances of the park; however, on busy days you may have a short wait.
On the other side of this entrance station you enter the meadows of the Kawuneeche Valley. Here you'll have access to Holzwarth Historic Site, the Coyote Valley Trail, the Colorado River Trail, Green Mountain, and Onahu Trail as well as Trail Ridge Road. This road will lead you all the way up to the Alpine Visitor Center and across the Continental Divide to Grand Lake.