by Kyle Patterson, Rocky Mountain National Park

For many, winter is their favorite time of year to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is less crowded, yet alive with activity. Weekends are much busier than weekdays. For those who are prepared, winter is an enchanting time to explore the wonders of the park.           

Snowshoeing is a fun, easy-to-learn activity and offers a new way to see the beauty of the park in winter. Rocky Mountain National Park offers Ranger-Led Snowshoe Walks on both the east side (Estes Park) and west side (Grand Lake) of the park. Snowshoe walks are offered from January through mid-March, based on snow and weather conditions. Participants must provide their own snowshoes. Don’t own your own gear? Rental opportunities are available in nearby communities outside of the park

Join a Ranger-led Snowshoe Walk 

RMNP Snowshoe

A Ranger-Led Snowshoe Walk is a two-hour program where participants will walk through hilly, uneven, snow-covered meadows and mixed conifer forest areas within Rocky Mountain National Park. Programs are offered on both the east and west sides of the park. No previous snowshoe experience is required, but the walk is considered moderately strenuous. Participants should have a baseline fitness level that allows them to snowshoe approximately one mile over hilly terrain at high elevations. These programs take place at 8,700-9,700 feet in elevation. Participants must be 8 years or older.  

Space is limited to a maximum of 20 people per program. Reservations are free (park entrance fees are still required) and all participants are required to make reservations in advance. These programs are very popular and fill quickly. For more information, visit the park’s webpage at

Beginning on January 6, Ranger-Led Snowshoe Walks will be offered on the west side of RMNP (near Grand Lake), on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. Reservations are taken on the Wednesday before the scheduled program, in the order they are received. West side programs will be offered, weather permitting, through March 17, 2024. 

Beginning on January 9, Ranger-Led Snowshoe Walks will be offered on the east side of RMNP (near Estes Park), on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. Reservations can be scheduled up to seven days in advance of a scheduled program. To make a reservation, call 970-586-1223. East side programs will be offered, weather permitting, through March 28, 2024.      

Are you a teacher interested in bringing your class to Rocky this winter? Ranger-Led Educational Snowshoe Programs are offered to organized school groups. To learn more and to schedule a field trip, visit  


Become a Track Scene Investigator! 

Winter Elk_John Berry

Have you ever been out hiking and wondered what animal made a track in the snow? If so, join our new east side (Estes Park) ranger-led program titled “Track Scene Investigator.” Join our new east side (Estes Park) program titled "Track Scene Investigator." This ranger-led program is on Sundays at 1 p.m., weather and conditions permitting, through March. Meet your park ranger guide at the West Alluvial Fan Parking Area. This program is free and designed for visitors of all ages. No reservations are required. This program will be taking place outside, so be prepared for weather and winter conditions; snowshoes are recommended but not provided. To learn more, visit  

A variety of winter and springtime programs are also offered through the park’s non-profit partner, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy (RMC). Some of these programs are free and some charge a fee to participate. To see their program schedule and to learn more, please visit the RMC website at  

Go Sledding! 


Sledding is another wintertime activity fun for all ages. The only place in RMNP where sledding is allowed is at the Hidden Valley Snowplay Area, located on the east side of the park approximately 7 miles from the Beaver Meadows and Fall River entrances. Facilities at Hidden Valley include a warming hut (open on weekends), and flush restrooms. For more information, visit  

Take a Winter Camping Trip 

During the 2023/2024 winter camping season, the only campground that is open in Rocky Mountain National Park is Aspenglen Campground. 27 campsites are open for winter use, located in the C-Loop. These sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  In 2024, the last night for winter camping in RMNP is Sunday, May 19. The Aspenglen Campground closes for the winter season on Monday, May 20 at noon.  Campsites are $30 per site, per night. There is no water.  For more details, visit  

If interested in winter wilderness backpacking camping trips, contact the park’s Wilderness Office at 970-586-1242. Permits are required for all overnight camping in the park.       

Winter Safety Tips 

Bear Lake in Winter_John Berry

 Your safety is your responsibility; know your limits and make sure that everyone in your group is prepared for the anticipated weather and conditions. Travel across and under steep slopes is not advised unless all members of your party have the education, safety equipment, and experience to make informed decisions about traveling in avalanche terrain. For the latest avalanche conditions, visit   

Advanced trip planning in winter is critical. Parking lots at popular destinations like Bear Lake, Glacier Gorge, and Hidden Valley often fill on the weekends. Trail navigation in winter can present difficult challenges. Trails in the park are not marked for winter use. Route-finding skills are necessary. Signs and trails can be buried beneath snow and difficult to follow. Never follow other people’s tracks, as they can easily lead you off-course. Cell phones, GPS devices, and other electronic devices are not reliable in cold conditions, as batteries can freeze.  

Road conditions in the winter can vary. Before coming to the park, make sure your vehicle is ready for winter driving. There could be ice or patches of snow on the surface of park roads. It’s important to have tires in good condition for winter driving on mountain roads. Colorado Vehicle Traction Law may become active at any time, based on weather and road conditions. When the Colorado Vehicle Traction Law is active in RMNP, this means that all vehicles (including 4-Wheel Drive, All-Wheel Drive, and 2-Wheel Drive) must have properly rated tires (Mud and Snow, Mountain and Snow or All-Weather Tires) with a minimum of 3/16" tread. If you have improperly rated tires on your vehicle, then you must use an approved traction control device. These may include snow chains, cables, tire/snow socks, or studded tires. 


Remember to slow down and keep an eye out for wildlife. Wildlife are active throughout the day and night and can cross park roads at any time. 


For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206 or visit our website at