Crews are working to improve access to and from Rocky Mountain National Park with the Downtown Estes Loop Project.

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Rocky Mountain National Park Butterflies: West of the Continental Divide

  • Estes Park, CO 80517
  • Phone: (970) 586-3262
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A day of exploration and wonder as we explore the butterfly species found in western Rocky Mountain National Park.

Butterflies fly in every life zone of Rocky Mountain National Park. This interactive field class will begin with a brief introduction to basic butterfly biology; including patterns of butterfly behavior, diversity, and important habitats in the Park. Afterwards, participants will visit several (2-3) locations on the west side of the Park, to search for peak season spring and summer butterfly species and their critical native plant associations. We will learn to observe and identify butterflies, while discussing conservation concerns, the rich history of decades of research on Lepidoptera, and the many other valuable pollinators that occur in the Park.

The field course is intended for general audiences, and experts and enthusiasts of all levels are encouraged to participate. We will focus on butterfly observation through binoculars and photography. Instructor Sara Simonson will bring a variety of field guides, and please bring your favorite resources to share.

Who: Participants ages 16 and up. Expect short-distance walks throughout the evening, primarily on level terrain.

Where: Meeting in Grand Lake, CO, and various sites in Rocky Mountain National Park. We will travel together into RMNP in Conservancy vehicles.

What to bring:

The weather in the mountains can change in moments. Please bring enough clothing layers, snacks, and water. Please plan to spend several hours outdoors, regardless of conditions.

About your instructor: Sara Simonson studied the butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) of Rocky Mountain National Park in her graduate research in Entomology at Colorado State University, working with cherished advisor Dr. Paul Opler. Sara worked as a Research Associate at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at CSU for 20 years, and continues to pursue graduate research with the Watershed Science program at CSU. Sara has a special interest in extending timelines to improve our understanding of natural history, through the measurement and monitoring of biological indicators. Sara leads butterfly courses and nature programs across Colorado, while based in the Central Colorado Mountains.

Conservancy members get 15% off individual registration when you use the discount code in your membership email! Limit 2 per membership.

Not a member of the Conservancy? Learn more and join here: Conservancy Membership

If you have questions about this course, please contact the Field Institute by email at or by phone at 970-586-3262.