Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP -Larimer section)
Aliases: Trail Ridge Road (Larimer section), Medicine Bow Curve, Alpine Visitor Center, Endovalley, Bear Lake
RMNP is one of the crown jewels of the National Park system and is a terrific place to see elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and other animals, as well as almost any type of montane bird species. Different elevations in the park support very different wildlife communities.
The lowest parts of the park are covered with wide mountain meadows (called ‘parks’) and forests of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir. Upper Beaver Meadows is one of the best low-elevation birding spots. Nesting birds in summer include Red-naped and Williamson’s Sapsucker, Dusky and Hammond’s Flycatcher, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Mountain and Western Bluebirds, and Green-tailed Towhee.
Higher up, at roadside pullouts below treeline, it is hard to miss Steller’s Jay, Gray Jay, and Clark’s Nutcracker. Trail Ridge Road rises above 12,000 feet, leaving the trees far below and giving unique access to the fragile habitat of the alpine tundra, where many specialized plants and animals can be found. Where the trees grow gnarled and stunted, White-crowned Sparrow is an abundant breeder. Above treeline, you are likely to see Yellow-bellied Marmots and Pikas; Brown-capped Rosy-finches are occasionally seen on the snowfields below the Lava Cliffs. American Pipits and Common Ravens are usually the most common birds above treeline, but if you’re lucky, you might find a White-tailed Ptarmigan; the best spots are just below the Alpine Visitor Center, in the Grand County section of the park.
Directions: To get to Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park: go west on US Hwy 36 to the Beaver Meadow Entrance Station. Alternate entrance: go west on Fall River Rd to the Fall River Entrance Station into the northern area of the park. Once in the park, utilize the park map to navigate to several great birding areas, including West Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadow, Moraine Park and the alpine region along Trail Ridge Road.
Dates of Access: Open all year
Ownership: National Park Service, Department of the Interior
Admission: Daily, weekly and annual entrance fee
Restrictions: Pets may accompany you in developed areas such as campgrounds, parking areas and picnic sites but are not permitted on trails or away from roads or parking areas. Where permitted, pets must be under physical control at all times; caged, crated, or restrained by leash no longer than six feet. Please obey all rules and regulations. Above treeline, be prepared for severe weather.
Lodging: Campgrounds in the park, or hotels in Estes Park
Handicapped Access: ADA accessible paved trails and viewing from car
» Visit the website for Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP -Larimer section)