Contact Rocky Mountain National Park, 1000 U.S. 36, Estes Park, CO 80517 (tel. 970/586-1206; www.nps.gov/romo). There's also great information on the Internet. Start at the park's main website, but check out the Environmental Education Department's site, www.heartoftherockies.net. Park visitor centers sell U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps. Also available is Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park, by Kent and Donna Dannen, which gives detailed trail descriptions.
The Rocky Mountain Nature Association, P.O. Box 3100, Estes Park, CO 80517 (tel. 800/816-7662 or 970/586-0108; www.rmna.org), offers a variety of trip-planning tools. The association sells a number of park maps, guides, books, and videos.
When entering the park, it's wise to make your first stop one of the visitor centers. Except as noted, all can be contacted through the main park phone number (tel. 970/586-1206). Visitor center hours vary seasonally and are based on available staff; the following hours are subject to change. Visitor centers are closed on December 25.
The Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, on U.S. 36 on the east side of the park, has a good interpretive exhibit that includes a relief model of the park, a free film on the park, a wide choice of books and maps for sale, and knowledgeable people to give advice. A self-guided nature trail just outside the visitor center identifies many of the park's plants. It's open daily year-round from 8am to 5pm.
Just outside the park on U.S. 34, just east of the Fall River entrance on the east side of the national park, is the Fall River Visitor Center. In a beautiful mountain lodge-style building, it contains exhibits on park wildlife, including some spectacular full-size bronzes of elk and other animals, plus an activity/discovery room for children, an information desk, and a bookstore. It is open daily 9am to 5pm from late spring through early fall, with slightly shorter hours on weekends only the rest of the year. Next door is a souvenir and clothing shop, a grocery store, a laundromat, and a cafeteria-style restaurant that serves snacks and sandwiches.
The Kawuneeche Visitor Center is at the Grand Lake end of Trail Ridge Road. In addition to exhibits on the geology, plants, animals, and human history of the park's west side, there is a small theater where a film on the park is shown, and a short self-guided nature trail. The center is open daily year-round, with varying hours; hours are 8am to 5pm in the heart of summer. Kawuneeche (Kah-wuh-nee-chee) is an Arapaho word that translates as "Valley of the Coyote."
The Alpine Visitor Center, at Fall River Pass, has exhibits that explain life on the alpine tundra and a viewing platform from which you are almost certain to see elk. Next door is the Fall River Store, open in summer, with a snack bar and gift shop that has a good selection of souvenirs, gifts, arts and crafts, and clothing, at surprisingly reasonable prices. The center is usually open late May through early October, weather permitting, and closed the rest of the year. Hours vary; the center is open 10:30am to 4:30pm from mid-June to early September.
The Moraine Park Visitor Center and Museum is a great spot for families. It is on Bear Lake Road, about 1 1/2 miles from the Beaver Meadows entrance station, in a log building that dates from 1923. It has full visitor-center facilities, in addition to excellent natural-history exhibits that describe the creation of the park's landscape, as well as the plants and animals of the park. There's also a half-mile nature trail outside. The museum is open daily from late spring to early fall, with hours of 9am to 4:30pm from mid-June to early September.
The Holzwarth Trout Lodge Historic Site is off Trail Ridge Road -- it's a half-mile walk -- about 7 miles north of the Grand Lake entrance station. It consists of several historic buildings you can view (but not enter). The site is open in summer only. A trail guide is available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.