Fall is one of the best times to go to Rocky Mountain National Park. The tourists are gone, and the bustling summer mountain town of Estes Park reverts to its sleepiness. When school starts at the end of August, the park begins to clear out and the trails begin to open up. For hikers who appreciate seeing the park’s rugged terrain without the stress of summer crowds, the fall is your hour of triumph. The season is late now, the colors have turned, and leaves have fallen. Winter is right around the corner, but there is still late-season hiking to enjoy in the nation’s third-most visited park.
Snows tend to fall elsewhere in the Rockies during the fall; when they come to Estes Park, they tend to arrive after New Year’s. Cool, dry days are followed by cold, dry nights, when the temperatures routinely drop below freezing. Bundle up and head out to explore the sheets of ice that form on Rocky Mountain National Park’s alpine lakes such as Mills Lake, Sky Pond, and pretty much every other lake above 11,000 feet.
When you go, just bear in mind that all bets are off at high elevations. The peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park are subject to strong winds and rapid weather changes, particularly in the fall.
About road conditions: Check in with the National Park Service for road closures. Many roads in Rocky Mountain National Park remain open for the season, Trail Ridge Road included, but may close temporarily due to wintry weather.