Hiking is the main attraction at Rocky Mountain National Park, so make sure to come prepared with sturdy and comfortable shoes or boots to make the most of popular trails, such as Bear Lake and Emerald Lake Trail. To experience the park from the comfort and safety of your car, take the hour-long drive on Trail Ridge Road. But before you do anything, you should stop at one of the park's visitor centers, such as Beaver Meadows, to stock up on maps and information. For a refreshing beer or ice cream at the end of a day in the wilderness, head to Estes Park and be sure to check out the establishments along the main drag, Elkhorn Avenue.
Below 9,400 feet (2,865 m), temperatures are often moderate, although nighttime temperatures are cool, as is typical of mountain weather. Spring comes to the montane area by early May, when wildflowers begin to bloom. Spring weather is subject to unpredictable changes in temperature and precipitation, with potential for snow along trails through May. In July and August, temperatures are generally in the 70s or 80s °F during the day, and as low as the 40s °F at night. Lower elevations receive rain as most of their summer precipitation.
The nearest airport is Denver International Airport and the closest train station is the Denver Union Station. Estes Park may be reached by rental car, shuttle or RTD bus. During peak tourist season, there is free shuttle service within the park and the town of Estes Park provides shuttle service to Estes Park Visitor Center, surrounding campgrounds, and the Rocky Mountain National Park's shuttles.
The montane ecosystem is at the lowest elevations in the park, between 5,600 to 9,500 feet (1,700 to 2,900 m), where the slopes and large meadow valleys support the widest range of plant and animal life, including montane forests, grasslands, and shrublands. The area has meandering rivers and during the summer, wildflowers grow in the open meadows. Ponderosa pine trees, grass, shrubs and herbs live on dry, south-facing slopes. North-facing slopes retain moisture better than those that face south. The soil better supports dense populations of trees, like Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and ponderosa pine. There are also occasional Engelmann spruce and blue spruce trees. Quaking aspens thrive in high-moisture montane soils. Other water-loving small trees like willows, grey alder, and water birch may be found along streams or lakeshores. Water-logged soil in flat montane valleys may be unable to support growth of evergreen forests. The following areas are part of the montane ecosystem: Moraine Park, Horseshoe Park, Kawuneeche Valley, and Upper Beaver Meadows.
Vacation in the Valley of the Sun in the winter of summer and find out why Fairplay is the activity hub of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. There is so much to do in the area including hiking, fishing, horseback riding and even canoeing and kayaking. Staying in the heart of the Rockies means you’re minutes from the action but nearby larger cities like Denver for a day trip. The owner of the property suggests having 4-wheel drive on your vehicle if you will be visiting in the winter.