Entry to the park is from either the east (through the town of Estes Park) or the west (through the town of Grand Lake). Connecting the east and west sides of the park is Trail Ridge Road, open during summer and early fall, but closed to all motor vehicle traffic by snow the rest of the year. Most visitors enter the park from the Estes Park side. The Beaver Meadows Entrance, west of Estes Park on U.S. 36, leads to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and park headquarters; it is the most direct route to Trail Ridge Road. U.S. 34 west from Estes Park takes you to the Fall River Visitor Center, just outside the park, and into the park through the Fall River Entrance, which is north of the Beaver Meadows Entrance. From there you have access to Old Fall River Road or Trail Ridge Road.
Estes Park is about 71 miles northwest of Denver, 44 miles northwest of Boulder, and 42 miles southwest of Fort Collins.
The most direct route from Denver is U.S. 36 through Boulder. At Estes Park, that highway joins U.S. 34, which runs up the Big Thompson Canyon from I-25 and Loveland, and continues through Rocky Mountain National Park to Grand Lake. An alternative scenic route to Estes Park is Colo. 7, the "Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway" that transits Central City (Colo. 119), Nederland (Colo. 72), and Allenspark (Colo. 7).
Heading south from Estes Park on Colo. 7, you can reach two trail heads in the southeast corner of the national park, but there are no connecting roads to the main part of the park from those points. These are Longs Peak Trailhead (the turnoff is 9 miles south of Estes Park and the trail head about another mile) and Wild Basin Trailhead (another 3 1/2 miles south to the turnoff and then 2 1/4 miles to the trail head).
Every day from late spring to early fall, free national park shuttle buses take hikers to some of the more popular spots and trail heads on the park's east side. There is a Park and Ride parking area west of Glacier Basin Campground; one route goes to Bear Lake, and the other goes to Moraine Park and several nearby trail heads. Contact park offices or visit the website for the current schedule.
From late June to Labor Day, the town of Estes Park also operates a free summer shuttle service (www.estesparkcvb.com) that connects the Estes Park Visitor Center with downtown, the surrounding campgrounds, and the Rocky Mountain National Park's hiker shuttles.
Those who want to enter the national park from the west can take U.S. 40 north from I-70 through Winter Park and Tabernash to Granby, and then follow U.S. 34 north to the village of Grand Lake and on into the park.
The Nearest Airport -- Visitors usually fly into Denver International Airport (tel. 800/247-2336 or 303/342-2000; www.flydenver.com), 90 miles southeast of the park's east entrances. It's served by most major airlines and car-rental companies. From the airport, travelers can also get to Estes Park on Estes Park Shuttle (tel. 970/586-5151; www.estesparkshuttle.com). The 2-hour trip costs $45 per person one-way or $85 per person round-trip.
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.