Group horsebackriding among fall trees
Horseback riding in fall

Fall in Rocky Mountain National Park

One of the most stunning times of year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park is the early fall—September through early October. Why? Bluebird skies, snow-dusted peaks, and the heavenly gold of aspen trees as they turn. You’ll also enjoy typically dry and sunny weather just right for exploring. Here are a few don’t-miss ways to enjoy the park in fall. 

Take a Scenic Drive

For a beautiful scenic drive, follow Trail Ridge Road—the highest continuous paved highway in the country—along the Colorado River toward the headwaters, through low wet meadows up through the changing trees and evergreen forests to the alpine tundra above treeline, where you’ll arrive at the Alpine Visitor Center. Stretch your legs, browse the exhibits, or tag along on a ranger-led tundra nature hike (10 am daily) to learn about this fragile, unusual ecosystem before cruising back down toward Granby. The road is winding, plus you’ll want to stop to take pictures, so allow at least a half a day for this drive. 

Experience the Elk Bugling

From mid-September through October, visitors can witness one of the most magical occurrences in the park—the elk mating season. The elk gather in herds of up to 100 to spar and mate. The bulls use their eerie bugle calls to mark territory, impress their rivals, and call to their cows to keep them close. The best time to hear them is before dawn and before dusk. 

The Kawunechee Valley is one of the best spots to experience the elk gathering and you can easily see them from the road or from trails like the Coyote Valley Trail. Make sure to only observe them from a distance and do not approach them. Stop in the Kawunechee Visitor’s Center just past the west entrance of the park to learn more and check in with the rangers there for sightings and updates.

Ride Through Fall Color

One of the most peaceful ways to experience the park is by horseback. A handful of outfitters offer trail rides of varying lengths from different locations throughout the park, and can accommodate riders of all levels. On the west side of the park, check out Winding River Resort. Steer your steed through fluttering golden leaves and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as mule deer, elk, and moose. 

Call the park Information Office for the latest information: (970) 586-1206. Also be aware that some park terrain and trails were affected by the East Troublesome Fire in fall of 2020. Make sure to check the park’s website for trail closures and re-opening updates.

Each year, millions of visitors flock to Rocky Mountain National Park to take in the breathtaking mountain scenery and to enjoy the great outdoors. One of the most remarkable experiences the park has to offer are scenic drives through the mountains, including drives along the legendary Trail Ridge...