The Climate of Rocky Mountain National Park co

The climate of Rocky Mountain National Park, CO makes for great wintertime fun even in early summer. Visitors will find the temperatures low. Many areas in the Park have snow year round. Winter conditions keep the road closed from mid-October to June. Winters are very cold with daytime temperatures below freezing. Nighttime temperatures even in the summer months can reach freezing temperatures.

During the fall and winter months, 22 to 39 inches of snow falls. Snow falls every month of the year there. However, September, October, December, and February tend to have the highest snowfall totals.

July has the most thunderstorms but between April and September thunderstorms can pop up and frequently do. Be sure to know where to go before setting out on a hike or camping trip. Peaks and ridges are prime targets for lightning strikes. A horse’s back is also a very dangerous place to be in a thunderstorm.

Rocky Mountain has more partly cloudy to cloudy days than any kind of weather. Dress warmly for this reason. The west side of the Park receives more snow and rain than the east side. The east has better rock climbing opportunities. Longs Peak, Lumpy Ridge, and Hallett Peak are popular and well-known areas for climbing. The west side has dense woods and wet terrain. The Continental Divide makes the climate in the Park diverse.

Because of the Divide, wind can cause sudden changes to those not watching closely. It is important to remember the hot air rises and cold air sinks. So the warm air will be on the mountains until a storm comes along.

Trail Ridge Road, the Park’s main access road from Estes Park, Colorado, reaches elevations of nearly 13,000 feet. For people with heart or breathing problems, this is not a good combination. The high altitude causes all people to breathe more heavily.

Move slowly as snow and ice can cause a person to fall or lose their footing. The high ridges can slide and avalanches can start. This is not just a warning for winter visitors but for summer visitors as well. Many small glaciers and snowfield make snowshoeing and skiing treacherous.

Lower elevations where weather changes are not so drastic are the montane forests and grasslands. It is much safer to be in this location during a thunderstorm.

The Park has 359 trails, 150 lakes, and 450 miles of streams.  Over 60 easily identifiable peaks are over 12,000 feet and 25% have no trees on them. Longs Peak is over 14,000 feet.


National Park Foundation’s Complete Guide to the National Parks, 1988 pp. 70-1, 374