Rocky Mountain National Park
North-central Colorado, just northwest of the city of Boulder
Rocky Mountain National Park
Estes Park, CO 80517
General Information: 970-586-1206
Backcountry Information: 970-586-1242
West Side Information: 970-627-3471
Campground Reservations: 800-365-2267
Web site: http://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
To Park: Visitors traveling from North-South on I-25: Exit Highway 34 or Highway 36, westbound to Estes Park. Continue on Highway 34 to the north entrance, or Highway 36 to the south entrance, at park headquarters.
Visitors traveling from the East-West on I-70: Exit Highway 40 north to Granby, north on Highway 34 to Grand Lake, and continue on Highway 34 to the west entrance.
In Park: personal vehicle, bicycle, summer season limited shuttle bus service on Bear Lake Road, and tour buses.
Headquarters Visitor Center and Kawuneeche Visitor Center offer park orientation exhibits and movies; open daily, closed December 25.
Moraine Park Museum, "The Making of a Landscape" geology exhibits; open daily, May through mid-October.
Alpine Visitor Center, "The Land of No Trees" alpine tundra ecosystem exhibits; open daily, Memorial Day through mid-October.
Lily Lake Visitor Center is an exhibit organized jointly by the forest service and the park service exploring the Longs Peak area; open daily, June through August.
The Never Summer Ranch examines historical dude ranching; open mid-June through Labor Day.
Beaver Meadows: Open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fall River: The visitor center is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunny mornings, possible afternoon thunderstorms, and cool nights. Weather conditions change quickly in mountainous areas and snow is possible year-round. Dress appropriately for each season—comfortable clothing, layers, rain gear, and wear plenty of sunscreen.
Unpredictability is the key word for mountain weather in the Rockies. As a result, the Colorado mountaineer cannot be indifferent about the weather and must be prepared for extreme conditions.
The Continental Divide, jutting into the prevailing west winds, is often capped by turbulent and wet storm clouds. The Bear Lake-Glacier Gorge region is often afflicted by poor weather, even when skies are clear a few miles to the east. Statewide weather trends announced in forecasts are nevertheless a valuable general guide to park weather, particularly for skiers planning extended tours.
Usual day temperatures vary from the low teens to the mid or high 20s. Night temperatures extend from the teens to well below zero. Cold fronts may lower temperatures to -30 degrees F, and the wind chill on exposed flesh can easily lower the effective temperature to -80 degrees F. Day tourers to open areas and all overnight tourers must be equipped to handle these polar conditions.
High winds, sometimes exceeding 100 miles per hour, are perhaps the greatest single weather danger in the park. Above treeline, skiers may be blown off their feet, experience zero visibility, and have a total loss of orientation. Skiers enveloped in a "white-out" may be moving downhill and think they are standing still, or standing still and think they are moving. Skiers should stick close together and immediately retreat below treeline, cautiously probing for cornices, drop-offs, and other unstable areas.
North-facing slopes offer the most snow, but also the most avalanche danger. South-facing slopes grow sticky in the sun and crusty in the shade, a condition that can snap ski tips unexpectedly. Traverses between drainages are difficult because most valleys have steep glacier-cut walls. Rock outcrops sometimes require detours, even along valley floors.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication