Guide to Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter


by Logan Johnson   |   January 7, 2022



Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is located just outside of Estes Park, CO and offers so many spectacular landscapes. The park offers 265,087 acres of meadows, lakes, mountain peaks, and over 300 miles of hiking trails that are sure to bring amazing wildlife viewing. RMNP has a lot to offer all year long but the winter months especially bring a whole new experience to the park. When planning your winter trip to RMNP, here is a guide to being prepared so you can soak up everything during your visit.

Travel & Road Conditions


The journey to Rocky Mountain National Park is a one hour and thirty minute drive from downtown Denver, going through Boulder, the quaint town of Lyons, and through jaw dropping canyons. Unlike the summer and fall months, the road conditions can change very quickly and road closures are more common due to weather.


When planning your visit to RMNP, be sure to check out the Colorado Department of
Transportation website for updates on any road closures in Colorado. You will have the option to sign up for text or email alerts for updates on road conditions and closures, but keep in mind cell service can be spotty along your drive so be sure to look before you begin your journey. Be sure to also check out RMNP website to stay up to date on roads that may be closed in the park, which could affect the trails or activities you plan to do once you are there.

What to Pack for Your Winter Adventure

Park Fees & Passes


In order to get into RMNP, you will need to show a park pass or pay an entry fee. These can be purchased ahead of time online. We like to purchase an annual America the Beautiful Pass to be able to visit other National Parks throughout the year.


Trail Apps


Hiking in the snow is such a different experience than hiking in the summer or fall months and it is even more imperative you are prepared to avoid losing the trail. Most of the trails in RMNP have clear signs guiding you on the trail, but be sure to have a downloaded map of the trails you are hiking. We like to use GAIA GPS or All Trails to download our hiking map and keep track of the trail.


During the winter months, most of the trails are snowy and ice packed making traction devices and trekking poles necessary.


Winter Clothing & Accessories

One thing we have learned while living in Colorado during the winter months is you can never pack too many layers to keep warm. The weather, especially in the mountains at higher elevation, is very unpredictable and it is important to be dressed appropriately.


You want to be sure to have warm base layers and to bring plenty of extra outer layers, such as an extra insulated jacket, puffer jacket, wind-breaker, fleece-lined pants, and wool socks. We also make sure to pack a beanie and gloves to ensure our extremities stay warm. It is also smart to pack hand and feet warmers to help bring some extra warmth while on the trail. There is nothing worse than dealing with wet toes when hiking in the snow and ice. We like to wear waterproof hiking shoes to ensure our feet stay warm and dry so we can conquer the trails.

Along with all of your layers and hand warmers, be sure to pack plenty of snacks and water. We like to pack a hydration pack full of water with some of our favorite snacks that are high in protein to keep us full longer. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen as the UV rays can be super strong with the sunlight reflecting off of the snow.

Hiking Trails in RMNP


Bear Lake to Dream Lake

One of our favorite hikes to do in RMNP in the winter months is located at the trailhead of Bear Lake. Once you enter into the park, it is a 24 minute drive to the trailhead (again, check the park website for road closures and conditions).


Bear Lake offers beautiful views of a frozen lake and Hallet Peak, which stands at 12,713 feet in elevation. As you walk the Bear Lake Loop, be sure to bear to the left to follow the trail to Dream Lake. The hike from Bear Lake to Dream lake is an easy, heavily trafficked 2.2 mile round trip with a total elevation gain of 450 feet. During parts of the hike, there are some short, steep sections that give amazing views of the 14er Longs Peak to your left. After hiking 1.1 miles from the trailhead, you’ll arrive at the junction of the trail that leads to Lake Haiyaha. Be sure to turn right to continue to Dream Lake.


Once at Dream Lake, you will have incredible views of Hallet Peak and 12,324 foot Flattop Mountain at the subalpine lake. During the winter months, the lake is iced over and offers an amazing picture spot.

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