Best time to visit Colorado

Bear Lake Road in Colorado

A beautiful drive through Rocky Mountain National Park

Best time: late May–September (all year round)

Bear Lake Road
Bear Lake Road

Bear Lake Road links Upper Beaver Meadows and Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. This 36-km (23-mile) road offers access to many hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and the Moraine Park Discovery Center. Moraine Park area is rich with wildlife like foraging elk.

Bear Lake Road was constructed back in 1928, and it is generally open year-round, but may be closed after a significant snowfall. The best time for a scenic drive in terms of weather and moderate crowds is late spring to early autumn. Also, shuttle bus service is usually offered to the Bear Lake Route from Memorial Day Weekend in late May until late September–early October, so it's the most convenient time if you don't own vehicle. The shuttle departs from the Glacier Basin Campground and stops at Park & Ride, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and Bear Lake.

One of the most picturesque areas along the road is Sprague Lake on the south side of Glacier Creek at an elevation of 2,654 m ( 8,710 feet). After passing Glacier Greek, the road features several dramatic twists and switchbacks before arriving at Bear Lake at 2,880 m (9,450 ft) above the sea level. From there, several hiking trails of various difficulty levels invite visitors to explore the park further. In winter, Bear Lake attracts cross country skiers, snow tubers, and snowshoe hikers.

Every year, over 2 million people visit Rocky Mountain National Park for its postcard-like views and abundant nature. Most crowds arrive in the summer as it's the best time for wildlife exploration.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Bear Lake Road and Rocky Mountain National Park?

The ideal time for a visit to Bear Lake Road and Rocky Mountain National Park falls between the months of May to September, whereby moderate weather and open attractions are available for you to enjoy. During that period, visitors can avail of shuttle services, in operation from Memorial Day weekend until early October. Alternatively, you can visit the area during winter, where you can engage in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snow tubing along Bear Lake Road, although some attractions and roads may be closed due to snowfall. Show more

Where does the shuttle bus service for Bear Lake Road depart from, and what are the stops along the way?

You can board the shuttle bus service for Bear Lake Road at Glacier Basin Campground, with stops at Park & Ride, Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, Glacier Gorge Trailhead, and Bear Lake. If you are without a vehicle, this shuttle service from late May through early October is the best way to explore the region. Furthermore, it also helps you avoid the limited parking facilities available, especially during peak seasons, for various trails along Bear Lake Road. Show more

What is the elevation of Bear Lake, and what hiking trails can be found there?

Bear Lake is at an elevation of 2,880m (9,450ft) above sea level, serving as both the endpoint of Bear Lake Road and one of the most scenic attractions in Rocky Mountain National Park. From this location, you can access several trails with varying difficulty levels such as the Bierstadt Lake Trail, Nymph Lake Trail, and Dream Lakes Trail. Additionally, you can embark on a magnificent 9.6km (6-mile) round trip to Emerald Lake, offering mesmerizing views of the surrounding lakes, glaciers, flora, and fauna for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. Show more

Are there any winter activities available on Bear Lake Road?

Bear Lake Road is open during winter, facilitating snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. While experiencing recreational activities in a stunning winter environment, visitors can witness an abundance of wildlife. It is possible that some attractions may be closed due to excessive snowfall during winter, but Bear Lake Road remains open for scenic drives and other winter recreational activities. Show more

What wildlife can visitors expect to see during a summer visit to Rocky Mountain National Park?

During summer, visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park can spot a range of wildlife, including coyotes, bighorn sheep, elk, and other breeds. This time of the year is characterized as the peak season for wildlife sightings, with hikers and tourists able to partake in guided tours or hike with rangers to explore wildlife habitats. It is important to maintain a safe distance from any wildlife during your visit and refrain from feeding them, considering that they are wild animals. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin