Rocky Mountain National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year, but during the fall it's an especially wonderful time. In addition to weather that is usually spectacular, and with fewer crowds, hikers will have many options for viewing beautiful autumn colors, such as cottonwood trees, but especially those of quaking aspens.
Roughly 60% of Rocky Mountain National Park is covered by forest, and most of that area falls below 11,000 - 11,500 feet in elevation. Above that range is alpine tundra, where no trees grow. It's in these subalpine and montane zones below 11,000 feet that park visitors and hikers will have the opportunity to view fall aspens. Aspens first begin changing their colors in the subalpine zone (9,000-11,000 feet) in early September. Progressively, color changes reach the montane zone (5,600-9,500 feet) by mid-month. The peak of the "gold rush" in Rocky Mountain National Park is usually around late September.
There are many great hikes that offer opportunities for checking out aspens in all their shimmering golden yellow and orange glory. Here are just a few suggestions:
East Side Hikes:
Alberta Falls, Bear Lake Loop, Bierstadt Lake, Cub Lake, Fern Falls, Fern Lake, Finch Lake, Gem Lake, Lumpy Ridge Loop, as well as the
The Keyhole on Longs Peak.
West Side Hikes:
Adams Falls, the Green Mountain Loop, Lake Verna, Lone Pine Lake and Spirit Lake.
And, just in case you needed another reason, the fall is the only time to see the elk rut when bull male elk strut around the meadows and let out high-pitched squeals, known as a "bugle". This elk bugling season runs from roughly mid-September through mid-October. The meadows in the Kawuneeche Valley and in Moraine Park are both outstanding places to witness one of natures most awesome shows.
If you do plan on visiting Rocky Mountain this fall, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings for both Estes Park and Grand Lake to help with all your vacation planning.