8 Best Things to Do in Rocky Mountain National Park (+Photos)

When my husband and I decided to take a road trip through Colorado, we knew we wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park, as it was one destination we hoped to check off our to-do list. Being the outdoor enthusiasts that we are, we took our road trip in July, knowing there would be many outdoor activities to take advantage of along the way.

If you’re looking for a destination that has gorgeous overlooks, wildlife spotting, rock climbing, and is excellent for hiking, I know you’ll want to add this outdoor scenic location to your road trip itinerary.

1. Beaver Meadows Visitor’s Center

Beaver Meadows Visitor’s Center

Upon arriving at Rocky Mountain National Park, we first stopped at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to gather as much information as possible. Not only were we able to learn facts about the park, such as it being declared a historical landmark in 2001, but we were able to walk around the shopping center, amphitheater, and observatory that had an outdoor balcony to get an idea of where we wanted to head to next.

Pro Tip: Get chatty with the park rangers to gather insider tips on what to see while at the park.

2. Take a Hike

Emerald Lake Trail

Since my husband and I are both adventure seekers, after we left the Visitor’s Center, we went on a hike, which is one of the most popular activities while visiting the Rockies. We decided to take the Dream Lake Trail, an excellent hike for all skill levels and 2 miles long.

Once we completed that trail, we headed to Nymph Lake from the Bear Lake Trail, passing by scenic overlooks, where we eventually found a quiet spot by the pond and enjoyed a picnic.

Pro Tip: If you’re not up for driving, the park offers a complimentary shuttle, so you don’t need to deal with any hassle of parking. Since many people come to this location for hiking, it becomes crowded at times.

3. Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding

On day 2, we wanted to slow it down with an intimate outdoor activity, so we thought horseback riding was a great idea. During our couples ride at Sombrero Stables, we traveled down valleys, through canyons, and into the forest since we chose one of the longer horseback rides.

Since Sombrero Stables is located in Estes Park, we had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and nature of the Colorado Rockies. In my opinion, riding horseback through the Rockies is a non-negotiable and one of the most memorable rides you’ll ever experience.

4. Ouzel Falls

Ouzel Falls

While hiking through the park, we both wondered if there were waterfalls at this location. One of our favorite things to do while hiking is to search for waterfalls where it’s a bit cooler to regroup. One of the hikes we found that had a large waterfall was Ouzel Falls.

This hike will take you under 3 miles to arrive at Ouzel Falls, but once you get there, you’ll discover a beautiful 40-foot waterfall. While making our way closer to the falls, we were lucky enough to see one of its native birds go for a swim.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking for additional waterfalls, you can also visit Lower Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades, and Copeland Falls.

5. Visit Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake

Back home, a close friend mentioned that if we were going to be traveling to Colorado, we wanted to stop by Sprague Lake, and boy, are we glad we did! When we arrived here, we were taken aback by the mirror-like reflections from the water, so peaceful that we genuinely did not want to leave. While taking in this serene, scenic lake, we noticed a short trail that was family-friendly and wheelchair accessible for those in need.

Pro Tip: I recommend coming to this location in the morning, where you can grab a seat on the bench to catch the reflection of the Rockies and the beautiful sunrise.

6. Go Wildlife Spotting

Bull Elk

When we first arrived at the visitor center earlier in our trip, we learned that this park has an estimated population of around 800 elk and 350 bighorn sheep, so we knew we wanted to wander around to see if we could catch a glimpse of wildlife.

While you may be lucky enough to spot wildlife from the comfort of your car, I recommend walking around to experience it on foot. We quickly learned that hiking the East Inlet Trail gave us more opportunities to spot moose.

Pro Tip: One of the park rangers mentioned that you could best view bighorn sheep at higher elevations on the cliffs.

7. Drive Through Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road

Known as one of the highest-paved roads through the entire United States National Park system, Trail Ridge Road runs 48 miles to Grand Lake. During our scenic drive, we spotted elk and sheep while taking in views from the overlooks. While we mainly drove through Trail Ridge Road for the scenery, you can also access other hikes from this location, along with the Alpine Visitor Center.

Pro Tip: If you’re traveling in July, I highly recommend bringing extra layers. Even on an early summer morning, the alpine tundra was around 25 degrees cooler than the park and only reached 34 degrees during our visit.

8. Try Out Mountaineering


As a popular activity in the Rockies, mountaineering and rock climbing at this location attracts climbers worldwide, and we are no exception. While we knew we didn’t have time to complete a multi-day climbing course, we headed to Performance Park, perfect for quick evening seasons or a couple of hours of climbing. The climb was relatively short, between 30 and 60 feet, just enough to fill our cup of rock climbing.

Performance Park seemed like a popular area for beginner rock climbers, so I highly recommend it if you’re trying to find a climb that’s not so intense. To get here, you’ll travel down Elkhorn Avenue from Estes Park, where you’ll find Performance Park on your right, close to the Silver Moon Inn.

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