Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado is situated in the northern part of the state in Estes Park. Encompassing over 415-square miles, the glorious natural wonder is replete with breathtaking vistas, wildlife, wildflowers, and scenery beyond belief. This alpine region beckons visitors from around the world. Thousands visit the National Park annually to enjoy the bounty of activities and beauty this famous landmark offers. Our time was limited so in order to get the most from the experience we enlisted Green Jeep Tours and enjoyed a windblown, outdoor, up-close view on their Rocky Mountain Safari Tour.
Rocky Mountain Safari Tour
When I began my research, I knew we’d only be in Estes Park for the day so rather than spending time trying to take in the scenery on our own, I looked for a tour that would offer us the opportunity to view Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado and still leave time for experiencing the town of Estes Park. My research led me to Green Jeep Tours and their Rocky Mountain Safari Tour.
Located on Moraine Avenue in Estes Park, Green Jeep Tours offers custom jeep tours of Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. The most popular tour they offer, the Safari Tour, lasts slightly over three hours and gives a comprehensive overview of the park, the wildlife, and scenery. The jeep is the preeminent tour vehicle because it offers panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and a knowledgeable guide to provide facts and details along the road.
We checked-in at the Green Jeep office in Estes Park twenty minutes before our scheduled departure and waited in the lot behind the building to get our jeep assignment. Our guide, Pete, introduced himself and we climbed aboard and buckled up. The open-air jeep has a removable roof and sides providing the most unique encounter with the stunning region.
The jeep holds up to eight people so for our tour my husband, son, and I shared the vehicle with a lovely family of four from Texas. My husband and son had the rear seats which if you’re a bit skittish, I don’t recommend. I was happy to be on the inside although, the pictures my husband was able to take from his vantage were superb.
We made our way through town and to Rocky Mountain National Park where our guide checked in at the gate. It was here we received a map of Rocky Mountain National Park as well as a pass (included with the tour price) for re-entry throughout the day. Once through the gate, we entered the mountaintop wonderland.
Touring Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado
Inside Rocky Mountain National Park, we traveled a short distance before making one of several stops. Our first point of interest was at a magnificent waterfall. In addition to the dazzling waterfall, our guide Pete pointed out the towering ponderosa pine trees as well as scars on the aspen trees which is a tell-tale sign elk have visited and rubbed their antlers on the trunks. Pete’s narration added to our experience and was extremely informative.
Moving on, we journeyed along Old Fall River Road. The one-way dirt road is only open from early July through September and is a craggy trail of switchback turns and sensational mountain views. We saw many tourists making the trek in their own vehicles, but personally, I was happy to let the sturdy green jeep do the driving. This rugged road is not for the faint of heart.
Leaving the dirt road, we connected with the better-traveled and paved Trail Ridge Road. The renowned artery traveling through the park winds past the Alpine Visitor Center, climbing high above the treeline to heights of up to 12,000 feet above sea level. Along the way, we made multiple stops to explore, experience, and appreciate the views.
The Animals in Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the most awesome aspects of touring Rocky Mountain National Park is seeing the native wildlife. We saw longhorn sheep, elk, and deer. Because it was summer we had the added treat of viewing marmots high above the treeline sunning themselves on rocks. There were also adorable, tiny, but swift, pika scurrying about, moving too quickly for me to capture a picture. These moments were incredible. A pair of binoculars would have come in handy for viewing these splendid creatures in their habitat, so I vow next time, I’ll be better prepared.
Rocky Mountain National Park Weather
In a word, Rocky Mountain weather is extreme. Temperatures can change swiftly and are shaped by elevation, exposure, and slope. Temps are milder below 9,400 feet but at higher elevations, it’s possible to see snow in July. We did see snow on the ground at high elevations but the sun was shining.
Green Jeep Tours run rain or shine year-round. With that in mind, you’re likely to experience multiple seasons during your tour regardless of the time of year. We were visiting in mid-July. When our tour began it was morning and still a little cool in Estes Park. The temperature rose to the mid-80s. However, when we reached high altitudes the temperature dipped significantly. I recommend wearing jeans or long pants, a jacket, a hat, and plenty of sunblock.
In cooler months or during rainy weather, the temperature in the park can be cold. Also, keep in mind despite the removable sides and roof, it’s still a jeep and dress accordingly.
Afternoon thunderstorms are common in Rocky Mountain National Park during the summer months, be prepared!
Tips For Taking a Jeep Tour of Rocky Mountain National Park
If you’re considering Green Jeep Tours, I suggest booking online or by phone prior to your visit. The Safari Tour is extremely popular and there’s always the possibility the tour will sell out. Another recommendation is to take a morning tour. The tour lasts between three and three and a half hours and departs promptly at 9:30. The potential of spotting wildlife is greater in the morning and it’s also much easier finding parking in Estes Park earlier in the day.
Additionally, when your morning tour finishes, you’re within walking distance of several popular Estes Park restaurants and eateries in time for lunch. You’ll also have the entire afternoon for exploring the charming downtown area and can even visit the iconic Stanley Hotel made famous by the films The Shining and Dumb and Dumber.
If you opt to stay in Estes Park, there’s a myriad of hotels, inns, and cabin rentals to choose from but keep in mind the summer season is busy. We stayed in Fort Collins which is approximately 45-miles away and an hour drive from Estes Park. By making Fort Collins our hub, we were able to enjoy a day trip to Estes Park and spend time visiting sites in Fort Collins including Colorado State University, the historic downtown area, and the popular New Belgium Brewing Company.
Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado was dedicated to a National Park in 1915. Long before it became a National Park, it was a natural wonder to behold. From its rich history, its native wildlife, to its iconic snowcapped peaks, this is a one-of-a-kind destination worthy of investigating. I’m thrilled we were able to explore and encounter its beauty in such an extraordinary way. Our Green Jeep Tour allowed us to immerse ourselves and our senses in the mountains for a short time. Our takeaway was a memorable adventure, a feeling of wonder, and a defining moment in our family story. After all, isn’t it the mental pictures that last the longest?
Green Jeep Tours
Estes Park, Colorado
See more of our visit here!
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