Frequently Asked Questions about Rocky Mountain National Park

Here you'll find some of the most frequently asked questions about Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area. If you have additional questions you can reach out to us here.

Summer on the tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park

Are Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park the same thing?

Estes Park is the town on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is separate from the national park. Since they both use the word "park" many people get confused. When you visit this area you'll soon realize that there are a lot of different "parks" around here: Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, Hollowell Park, Estes Park, Allenspark, etc... The reason that there are so many "parks" is because in this area, the word "park" refers to a large grassy meadow surrounded by forest.

How can I tell the difference between a moose, an elk, and a deer?

The first thing to consider is their size and color. Moose are the largest of all and are a dark chocolate brown. They have long gangly legs and a very long snout. The male moose may have large flat antlers. Elk and deer have similar coloring and both tend to have brighter patches on their back ends. They are both light brown, but the elk have a darker brown coloring around their head and neck. If you see them near each other, you'll see that the elk are much larger and heavier. The mule deer are a more uniform color and are smaller than the elk and moose. Compare the photos below and then visit our wildlife section learn more about each of these animals.

When is the best time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park?

There is no easy answer to that questions as everyone has a different idea of what they want to experience. Also, there are often trade-offs for each time of year. If you want to experience idyllic Rocky Mountain National Park with lush green foliage, snowy peaks, and great hiking, then the first week of July is ideal. The trade-off is that this is a very busy time of year to visit. If you want to watch the elk sparring each other during the autumn rut and enjoy wonderful autumn leaves then the last week of September can be perfect. This is however the busiest time of the entire year. If you are looking for a summer visit that is not quite so busy, then consider coming in late May. There will be snow on the higher trails and Trail Ridge Road may still be closed, but it is a gorgeous time of year and isn't overly crowded. Another option to consider is the end of August as there is usually a little lull in visitation. The snow on the peaks will have melted by then and you can get a range of weather from hot to snowing, but generally it is a nice time to visit.

On the "When To Visit" page, I walk you through each month of the year and what you can expect in terms of weather, wildlife, hiking, and crowds.

Timed-Entry Permit Questions

The new timed-entry permit system can seem a little bit daunting at first. Once you've used it, it becomes a lot less confusing. If you have read the information we have on this website and still have questions about the permits, I recommend that you visit the government's official RMNP website. On the following link they explain the permit system and at the bottom of that page you will find a list of common questions people ask about the permits. Here's the link:

Why do they close Trail Ridge Road in the winter?

It may seem like keeping Trail Ridge Road open during the winter would make a lot of sense. It connects two important parts of Colorado and when it is closed it adds an additional couple hours of driving. Yet it isn't as simple as plowing on a regular basis. Trail Ridge Road is one of the highest roads in the country and as such it faces intense winter winds that often howl well over 50 mph. The result of that wind would cover the road with snow again almost as soon as the plow had gone by. Keeping the road clear during the winter is nearly impossible. To learn more and see photos visit this article about Trail Ridge Road.

Alpine Visitor Center in the winter

If you have a question about Rocky Mountain National Park, let us know.