You’re not going crazy. Spring in Rocky Mountain National Park looks just about like it does in winter, albeit with longer days. Consider this when planning, as a good portion of the park is not accessible. However, it’s still so beautiful. So when visiting Rocky Mountain National in April, be prepared for winter weather, yet come hoping for spring conditions!
And even if the weather in the park is less than ideal, there are still plenty of things to do in Estes Park in April to hold you over. We will dive into snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, how to structure your trip and extra things to do in town.
Springtime in Rocky Mountain National Park
The gear you’ll need for spring hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Remember, the weather can turn quickly when hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in April. So be prepared with enough gear in case tough weather rolls in. Furthermore, changing clothes for the way down can keep you warm if you sweated through your hiking clothes.
Getting accustomed to snowshoeing
When snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, it’ll feel a bit odd at first. This is okay. A couple of tips are to walk with the tips pointing out just a tad. This will help you avoid clipping the back of your front foot. The second is attempt to walk normally and slowly. No one’s running in these.
Using these two tips will significantly decrease the likelihood you fall over (which I did!).
Don’t forget to do these before visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in April:
Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park
Best places to go exploring
Deer Mountain was a fun but challenging hike. While the hike isn’t technical, you’re hiking above 9,000 feet, making it a lot more tiring than you’d expect. But, overall, it’s a 6-mile hike with beautiful views of the surrounding snowy peaks.
The hike starts gradually as you ascend the first mountain before it levels out. Then you’ll weirdly drop a bit before making the final push uphill. This is the worst half-mile or so. But, before long, you’ll be at the top and ready to soak in the sights.
Bear Lake – Dream Lake – Emerald Lake
One of the favorites for people snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, these three lakes are an excellent hike with pretty grand views. At three miles round trip, it’s a pretty easy hike (700 feet of elevation gain) that will take longer in snowshoes than it usually would hiking. However, if the weather cooperates, this will allow you to enjoy the towering peaks.
Even more remarkable, for those not from Colorado, is how these lakes freeze over so you can walk out onto them. This will be your first time walking on a frozen lake for some of you!
Watch for wildlife
We spotted some nice-looking Elk on our way down from Bear Lake. As a photographer, I had to stop and take a few photos. Always remember to be cautious around wild animals and keep your distance. The wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park in April is just starting to emerge for spring, giving you great opportunities to take photos.
Things to do in Estes Park in April
Go Wine Tasting
There’s only one winery in Estes Park, Snowy Peaks, so we recommend making a reservation instead of just walking in. It’s located just after you turn right, as if you’re heading into the park. There’s also a brewery, The Barrel, across the street, which is good!
Check out the historic Stanley Hotel
Those who are a fan of The Shining, you’ll know all about it. This was the hotel inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining. You can stay here, grab drinks and a meal, or tour the place. We just grabbed a drink. They have photos of all the famous people who’ve visited over the years, and it’s fun to see who’s made it.
Walk the main street and shop
If you enjoy people-watching, popping into local shops, or grabbing ice cream, this is for you! Main Street is cute and has tons of shops to stop in for souvenirs or snacks. You can also rent your Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoes in this area. We got ours from Outdoor World, and it wasn’t expensive.
A weekend itinerary for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in April
- Stop in Boulder and check out the town on your way from Denver. They have incredible breweries that are worth a pitstop. We stopped at Upslope Brewery and grabbed some food at Cafe Mexicali.
- If you have more time to explore, hike the Flatirons near Boulder.
- Check into your Estes Park hotel and see if you can grab some snowshoes this evening.
- Total drive time from Denver to Estes Park: 90 minutes
- Rent your snowshoes and head up to Bear Lake to hike. First, we walked around Bear Lake to get accustomed to our snowshoes. If you go all the way to Emerald Lake, it should take you three hours round trip.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife! We spotted Elk on the side of the road. This is why visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in April is so great is the unexpected sightings!
- Come back to Estes Park, and change before going out on the town.
- Before dinner, we enjoyed some drinks at The Barrel and Snowy Peaks Winery. Then, we had a fantastic meal at Himalayan Curry & Kebob.
- Total drive time from Estes Park to Bear Lake parking lot: 30 minutes
- Wake up and prepare for another day of snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. This time, head to Deer Mountain for the six-mile round-trip hike. Drive time: 20 minutes
- After your hike, check out downtown or head to the Historic Stanley Hotel and get spooky. One of our favorite things to do in Estes Park in April was going to the hotel for drinks and a tour.
- You could also hike early and then drive back to Denver for a Rockies baseball game!
What else should I know about an April trip?
How busy will Rocky Mountain be this time of year? Summer’s peak season, so it’s definitely less than that. However, if the weather is good, the parking lot at most places will be packed on the weekends. However, with many Rocky Mountain National Park snowshoeing trails available, I don’t think you’ll feel overly crowded by people.
Is rocky mountain national park open year-round? Yes, it is, but not all of it is open. The road that connects the two sides of the park closes for winter. The most popular points are usually accessible year-round for snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park or hiking. Even if roads are open, I recommend using a vehicle with AWD or 4×4 from October through April.
Can you drive through Rocky Mountain National Park? Unfortunately, you cannot drive through the park. That road loses when the snows come. However, each side of the park at lower elevations is open if the weather allows, and the plows can keep the roads clear. When we went to Rocky Mountain National Park in April, we found the roads were in good shape.
What is the best time of year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park? July through September would be my vote. The entire park is open, with endless hiking available. Plus, for those who like peak bagging, the 14ers are more easily climbable during the summer months. But remember, hike early and be off exposed areas before afternoon thunderstorms roll in.
However, visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in April is lovely because you get fewer crowds, but you still can enjoy the park in a way many don’t.
Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.
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