It’s one thing to open up your maps apps to see what towns are near Rocky Mountain National Park, but since Andrew and I actually lived in the Denver area, I figured I would make it easier for you and highlight some of the best locations.
Whether you are looking for a place to stay or other things to do on your visit to RMNP, these cities and towns will keep your travel time low and your adventure time to the max!
Rocky Mountain National Park has four entrance stations, but I’m going to be referring to the most popular one, Beaver Meadows, throughout this list. Also keep in mind, that depending on the time of year you visit RMNP, you may need to get a timed entry permit. So plan accordingly!
Check out the table below for the complete list of towns near Rocky Mountain National Park with the distance and estimated drive time to the main Beaver Meadows Entrance station. But keep reading for more details about each location and a few suggestions for places to stay.
|Distance to Rocky Mountain National Park
|Drive Time to RMNP in Good Weather
|Estes Park, CO
|1 hr 6 minutes
|Fort Collins, CO
|1 hr 12 minutes
|Grand Lake, CO
|1 hr 18 minutes
|1 hr 37 minutes
|1 hr 37 minutes
Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park, CO is the closest town to Rocky Mountain National Park, less than 5 miles down the road. Since RMNP is just outside Estes Park, many people get the two confused as being the same thing. One aspect you won’t be confused about though, is once you get to Estes Park – which is at 7500 ft. elevation – there are now shortage of views in every direction!
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 4 miles and around a 10 minute drive
There isn’t a lot going on in Allenspark, CO, but that’s what makes it a special town near Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a popular scenic overlook before you get to town, along with a nice taco joint just up the road. So whether you are just passing through Allenspark on your way to RMNP or staying over night at the B&B, put this small mountain town on your radar.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 16 miles and 25 minute drive
Lyons, CO is at the base of the foothills where you can either go a more direct route to RMNP up US 36, or take another scenic drive up CO 7 and through the aforementioned Allenspark on your way to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
No matter which way you drive, when you are in Lyons there are two place you should plan to visit – Oskar Blues Grill & Brew and Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ & Brew. You can thank me later!
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 24 miles and 40 minute drive
Although not as big as Denver, which we’ll discuss later, Loveland, CO is one of the bigger cities near Rocky Mountain National Park. If you need to hit up a King Soopers, Target, or Wal-Mart to stock up necessities before your drive up US 34, or want more options for places to stay then make sure to check out Loveland.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 34 miles and 57 minute drive
South of Loveland and East of Lyons is Longmont, CO. Home to Left Hand Brewing Company and the Boulder County Fairgrounds, Longmont is just an hours drive from Rocky Mountain National Park. Plus, you can easily hop on CO 119 and head south to check out Boulder and the Flat Irons if time allows.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 36 miles and 59 mile drive
Boulder, CO is pretty hip and rapidly growing town within an hour drive of RMNP, where the University of Colorado is located. If hiking is your thing, Boulder has plenty to choose from which could help you acclimate to the altitude before heading to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Make sure to head to Pearl St. and check out the local shops and some eateries that are so good you might forget you came there to visit Rocky Mountain National Park!
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 41 miles and a little over 1 hour drive
Fort Collins, Colorado
Fort Collins, CO is home to Colorado State University and New Belgium Brewing Company – you might have guessed by now that Andrew and I like our craft beer! Although Fort Collins isn’t as close to Rocky Mountain National Park as some of the other towns and cities, it is less than an hour from Cheyenne Wyoming as well, making it a great spot to get your national park and old west history fix in.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 45 miles and 1 hr 12 minute drive
Nederland, CO is a small mountain town near Rocky Mountain National Park at 8200 ft elevation. I mainly added it to the list because it was nice quiet place for us to visit when we lived outside Denver and also because the town motto is “Life’s Better Up Here” – so how can you argue with that!
When you are in Nederland make sure to grab breakfast at Ned’s Restaurant, a beer from Knotted Root, and dinner at Busey Brews Smokehouse & Brewery. All great ways to start and end your day at Rocky Mountain National Park!
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 42 miles and 1 hour drive
Grand Lake, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park surrounds Grand Lake, CO on three sides, so if you think scenery may be lacking, think again! Even though Grand Lake is a small town, that’s exactly what makes it special.
**A very important piece of logistical information about Grand Lake and the next town near RMNP, Granby, is that part of US 34 leading to Rocky Mountain National Park is closed in winter.
Grand Lake Colorado provides access to a Continental Divide trailhead and in warmer months you have to rent a paddle board or kayak and head out on the lake!
And I would not be a very good guide if I didn’t mention that you have to eat lunch and/or dinner at Sagebrush BBQ & Grill and grab a beer or three (drink responsibly) at The World’s End Brewpub.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 43 miles and 1 hour 20 minute drive
Granby, CO might be a little over 90 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is a cool little town tucked right in the Rockies. Plus, if you have your pilots license you can fly into Granby/Emily Warner Field and avoid the crowds at DIA and on I-70!
Granby is less than 30 minutes from Winter Park, CO, one of Colorado’s many ski resorts, so you are literally right in the middle of an outdoor lovers sandwich.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 56 miles and 1 hour 37 minute drive
Denver, CO is the closest major city to Rocky Mountain National Park and home to the biggest airport – DIA – to get you nearby. Even if you don’t plan on staying in Denver, there is plenty to see and do in the Mile High City.
Catch a Rockies baseball game during the summer or a Broncos game in winter, check out the flagship REI store, have breakfast at one of the Snooze, an A.M. Eatery locations, visit Union Station, or book a Denver Brewery Tour.
Needless to say, you will not get bored if Denver is on your Rocky Mountain National Park itinterary!
One thing to keep in mind, depending on where you are coming from, is that Denver is at 5280 ft elevation and RMNP starts out around 8200 ft. So acclimatizing the altitude will be key to help you enjoy your stay and avoid altitude sickness – it’s real thing out here.
- Distance to RMNP Beaver Meadows Entrance: 69 miles and 1 hour 40 minute drive
Is it better to stay in Grand Lake or Estes Park?
If you are trying to decide whether you want to stay in Grand Lake or Estes Park during your visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, the time of year you go may determine the answer. The road from Grand Lake to RMNP, HWY 34 (Trail Ridge Rd) is closed during the winter once you get past the Timber Lake Trailhead area.
Estes Park, CO is bigger and has more amenities than Grand Lake, not to mention a lot closer to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. But if you are looking for a more low-key place to stay with no shortage of crazy views, and the Colorado River flowing besides you, then Grand Lake is your place to be!
What is the difference between Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park?
The difference between Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park is that RMNP is a US National Park located outside the town of Estes Park, Colorado. Since they are so close to each other, and the fact that Estes Park is known as the basecamp to Rocky Mountain National Park, the two have become synonymous.
Wrapping It Up…
Now that you know all the cities and towns near Rocky Mountain National Park, what are you waiting for? Get that trip planned and start packing!
I know no matter where you choose to stay or visit along the way, your trip to RMNP will be one you will never forget.