Rocky Mountain National Park covers about a thousand square kilometers and has mountains, lakes, forests, and mountain tundra - an alpine environment devoid of trees. It is a federal park, protected by the US government since 1915. Millions of visitors hike the park every year.
Entrance to the park
The park has two main entrances: Estes Park in the east and Grand Lake in the southwest. There are additional small entrances for specific routes. Between the two main entrance gates runs road 34, which is 77 kilometers long, and parts of it are closed during the year, depending on the weather conditions. Along the road, there are many lookouts and the Alpine Case Center.
You can enter the park by car or use the shuttle routes between May and October. The shuttle bus between Estes Park Visitors Center costs $2 and requires you to register ahead. The bus enters the park and allows the hikers to get one of the other free shuttle buses that run between some popular trailheads.
If you enter with a car, you need a Park Access parking permit, and as of our trip, between May 27 and October 10, you must also coordinate the time of entering the park: Timed Entry Permit Reservation. The time range for entry is two hours, which means entry is coordinated for 9-11, 11-13, and so on. You'll need to enter the park during the hours you registered.
If you want to travel on the Bear Lake Road Corridor, which leads to some of the most recommended hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains, you need to purchase a Park Access permit that includes the corridor.
At the time of our trip, the registration to enter the park opened at 17:00 the day before.
The tickets and the time of entry are purchased on the National Parks of the United States website: www.recreation.gov.
The parking spaces at the trailheads of the popular routes are minimal. In different parts of the park, there are huge parking lots from which free shuttles depart, leading to the beginning of the roads. The service is efficient and convenient.
A trip at altitude
Many of the routes in the Rockies are very high. Travelers not used to heights will be surprised to find that although the road may seem easy, the breathing is much heavier. If you are planning long routes in high places, it is recommended to get your body used to it gradually over two to three days, each time extending the route a little and letting your body get used to it. Exposure to the sun requires drinking a lot and using sunscreen.
Food in the Rocky Mountains
Except for the few visitor centers in this huge park, there is nowhere to purchase food and drink - no coffee carts, no food stands, no ice cream truck, and no merchants with coolers and drink cans. It would be best if you organized it in advance. We started every morning at 6:00 at the local Safeway supermarket, where we stocked up on food and drinks for that day's trip.