Last Updated on August 29, 2022 by Snezana Grcak
The distance from Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park is approximately 140 miles. The drive is easy and pleasant, but our travel itinerary includes all the details you need to make it even better. We’ll help you create a detailed plan, discover impressive places en route, and explore the national park’s iconic mountains, trails, lakes, and foothills. You’ll find the best stops to enjoy nature and wilderness areas, try out fun outdoor activities, or check out top downtown restaurants and shops. Use our guide to have a unique and hassle-free experience whether you choose to visit the park in spring, summer, fall, or winter.
Drive From Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park
The point-to-point drive without stops takes around two and a half hours. The best way to travel from Colorado Springs to Rocky Mountain National Park is by taking Interstate 25 to Denver and then U.S. Highway 36 all the way to the national park. The ride is smooth and not too long, but you should extend it a little; stop by several cool places in between to have a perfect road trip.
We suggest you enter the park on the east side, which has more spectacular mountain views, hikes, and areas to explore. If you’re using Google Maps, set the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center as your destination.
Cool Stops Along the Way
Our team singled out the most interesting and beautiful areas between Colorado Springs and Rocky Mountain National Park. Discover the best places to hike, relax, have lunch, or shop.
After about 30 minutes from your starting point, take Exit 161 toward Monument. Then, go through 2nd Street, Mitchell Avenue, and Mount Herman Road to get to Schilling Avenue.
A 2.7-mile loop trail goes by this impressive rock feature. It’s an easy but beautiful hike, ideal for newbies. People often visit the area for hiking, so you’ll probably come across a lot of people if you come during the afternoon. To avoid the crowds and enjoy the silent nature, get there early in the morning.
Chatfield & Roxborough State Parks
Take Exit 185 for Castle Rock Pkwy to N Meadows Dr and then US-85 N to Chatfield State Park. It’s a nice park with beautiful mountain views, easy trails, picnic areas, clean camping sites, and plenty of activities on the lake. There’s also a cool small beach, ideal for single travelers and families alike.
Roxborough State Park is a 10-minute drive from Chatfield. It’s an incredible spot with red rocks that truly stand out and several hiking trails. We recommend the Willow Creek Loop trail, a moderately challenging route that goes through some wooded areas and a few streams and rivers.
The Mile-High City is Colorado’s most populous city with a lot to offer. While there are countless sites offering top tourist attractions, we’ll list the places that are truly worth seeing.
- Denver Zoo features fascinating exhibits and a variety of animals. Tickets are reasonably priced, but you can also enter free of charge on selected days. Click here for ticket and parking rates.
- Denver Art Museum is beautifully designed with diverse items, exhibitions, and activities for kids. Find ticket and parking prices here.
- Denver Botanic Gardens is a stunning, unique, and well-maintained place suitable for year-round visits. Learn about tickets and free parking in advance.
- Hammond’s Candies is a famous candy factory that offers amazing tours free of charge. Just book it online or call 303-333-5588, ext. 110, to make a reservation.
- Forney Museum of Transportation isn’t so popular among tourists, but it’s undoubtedly worth seeing. It’s way cooler than its website, with many beautifully-restored vehicles on display.
- The American Museum of Western Art–The Anschutz Collection is another underrated city attraction. The admission ticket is only $5, and it’s open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
- Bluff Lake, located a quick drive away from downtown Denver, is a great spot to enjoy nature, hike, or simply roam around and watch deer, eagles, owls, and pelicans.
After touring the city, you’ll probably get hungry, so the Shuttle Fare team selected the best local eating places.
- Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant (steak house)
- El Five (tapas-style restaurant)
- Rioja (Mediterranean eatery)
- ChoLon (Southeast Asian restaurant)
- Adam’s Mystery Playhouse (murder mystery dinner theatre)
The city is known for awesome breweries, lively downtown, and fantastic outdoor adventures. The best places on Boulder’s brewing scene include VisionQuest, Twisted Pine, Sanitas, and Avery Brewing Co. The Pearl Street Mall covers four blocks and features an array of restaurants, shops, and street performers, so it’s a must for all tourists. Finally, you can hike at Chautauqua or bike along the Boulder Creek Path for recreation.
The small town of Lyons also has nice eating places, breweries, and historic buildings. However, the chief reason we decided to include it in our list is for grocery shopping. Estes Park is pricey, and you can’t buy food in the national park, so be sure to stop here to get food, water, and sunscreen.
A base for Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, is also a cool destination for outdoor activities and watching wildlife. But, unlike the park itself, it has a vibrant downtown with shops, boutiques, and breweries, so there’s something for everybody. It’s a quick drive from the park’s entrance, so you might want to consider booking a room in one of the town hotels.
You’ll also notice Lake Estes on your drive into town, which is an excellent spot for fishing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, and boating. The lake is ringed by the 3.75-mile trail, offering an easy hike throughout the magnificent area.
Rocky Mountain National Park Passes & Things To Do
The Rocky Mountain National Park pass includes one vehicle and all passengers in it. Buy your pass online at the following prices.
|Vehicle Pass Type||Price|
Aside from a valid pass, you must also reserve a Timed Entry Permit from May to October. Get it here for $2, and be sure to enter the park during the two-hour entrance window.
Top Hiking & Driving Spots
There’s a lot to do and even more to see in this magnificent park. If you’re up for a light hike, check out Bear Lake, which is the shortest and suitable for all ages, and the Nymph Lake/Dream Lake/Emerald Lake hike. The latter isn’t too tough and offers magnificent views of the three lakes and surrounding mountains.
The Alberta Falls trail offers another family-friendly hike that takes about an hour. You can start at Glacier Gorge via Park & Ride or the Bear Lake trail. Shuttle buses operate in the summer and can take you to popular locations.
If you’re an experienced hiker, hit the Chasm Lake, Mount Ida, Hallet Peak, or Longs Peak Trail. The last one is the longest and covers 15 miles.
Our team also strongly suggests driving along the 48-mile-long Trail Ridge Road. It’ll take you to the opposite side of the Continental Divide and provide breathtaking views along the way. One of the best viewing stops is the Forest Canyon Overlook, so be sure to check it out. If you’re visiting during summer, traffic can spoil the experience, but do at least the eastern half of the road.
When To Visit Rocky Mountain National Park
If you want access to all attractions and hiking trails, go anytime from June to September, but note that the national park is the busiest during this period. Plan your hikes to start either before 8 AM or later in the afternoon to snatch a space in trailhead parking lots.
November through April is the ideal time for those who don’t like crowded places, but that’s when the weather is cold and very unpredictable. So, you’ll probably have to deal with either snow or mud. Anyway, whenever you decide to travel, be sure to check the weather forecast before you start the journey.
Our other in-depth travel guides include the following routes and U.S. national parks: