Rocky Mountain National Park: Planning the Perfect Trip
You’ve been looking forward to exploring Rocky Mountain National Park for years - there’s so much to see and do, like the hike you’re planning to Gem Lake, or the wildlife watching photo safari you’ve penciled in to capture the park’s majestic elk. Time to start thinking about the gear you’ll need for the park’s high altitude terrain and extreme weather conditions.
Rocky Mountain National Park’s High Altitude Terrain and Weather are Extreme
Visitors to the park need to prepare for two distinct climates within Rocky Mountain National Park - each has its own unique gear checklist. The low country (7,500 feet) around Estes Park and Moraine Park see summertime temperatures in the mid 70’s with nighttime lows dropping to the low 40’s. Thunderstorms typically roll in every afternoon, but can also happen in the mornings.
At elevations 10,000 feet and above (high country), the unpredictable weather can change rapidly. Temperature swings of 30-40 degrees can take you from summer to winter in a matter of minutes and the winds can be fierce. If you’re planning a hike, it’s best to start very early in the morning, especially if your hike takes you into the higher elevations. And as a rule of thumb, plan to summit and start heading back down the mountain by noon to avoid exposure to lightening. Always check the weather forecast and be aware of looming dark storm clouds and lightning.
Bring Gear and Clothes to Stay Warm, Dry and Comfortable
Preparing for Rocky Mountain National Park’s diverse and sometimes extreme weather needs to be a mandatory part of your pre trip planning. The last thing you want to worry about is how the weather might derail your plans, so come prepared with the right gear to keep you warm, dry and comfortable in the park’s extreme climate.
Rocky Mountain Gear Suggestions
Your mandatory gear checklist should include waterproof footwear and a protective all-weather shell to guarantee you’ll be protected from the cold, wet and windy conditions. Here are a few recommendations:
Hiking Footwear That is Waterproof but Also Breathable
Mammut Comfort Low GTX® SURROUND® Shoe is a low cut with mid cut support thanks to Mammut’s patented Rolling Concept® which delivers excellent antiroll stability – something you’ll appreciate while hiking Rocky Mountain National Park’s uneven terrain. It also features GORE-TEX® SURROUND® product technology which provides best in class waterproof protection and breathability.
The North Face Ultra Fastpack GTX® Shoe - Made from GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort footwear laminate, this shoe is durably waterproof and highly breathable — which means your feet will be comfortable in any conditions Rocky throws at you. Stability is enhanced by CRADLE GUIDE™ technology, which encourages proper stride alignment. A top pick for Rocky’s terrain and frequently changing weather conditions.
All-Weather Shells That’ll Keep You Protected From the Wind and Dry in Wet Conditions
Arc’teryx Beta SL Jacket – This women’s jacket features GORE-TEX® PacLite® which means it’s packable, lightweight, and an excellent all-around choice for Rocky’s varying conditions.
Marmot Nano AS Jacket – At just 11 ounces this jacket provides durable waterproof protection plus excellent breathability – the perfect combination for Rocky Mountain National Park’s day-hikes.
Article by Rob Wood