How To Spend One Day In Rocky Mountain National Park

You’re passing through and you only have one day in Rocky Mountain National Park. What should you see?

In one day, you can knock out the best things. But truthfully you need more than one day to get the full experience. Let’s focus on what you should do to get the best experience and not waste time.

If you only have one day in the park, we recommend you explore these:

Sunrise Hike To Dream Lake

The first adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park should be a sunrise hike.

Most of the best hikes in the park will begin at Glacier Gorge Trailhead or Bear Lake Trailhead. Both of these require an entry permit between May 27th – October 10th. Always check with the Rocky Mountain National Park site to ensure these dates are correct. Even if you have the entry permit, you may have to arrive early for a parking spot. Especially at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. There are a very limited number of spots

Hiking to Dream Lake is an easy hike for most people.

This hike is a 2.0 mile (out & back) hike that will take you past some of the most known sights in the park on foot. You will be able to see Alberta Falls, Nymph Lake, and then Dream Lake. A sunrise hike to Dream Lake will allow you to beat the crowd, find a parking spot, and then be ready for lunch to continue your day! The hike to Dream Lake is not strenuous, which makes it a great choice for someone who is not acclimated to the Estes Park elevation.

You have the option to drive back to Estes Park for lunch, or pack your own lunch and eat at the lake. Here is our guide to Estes Park.

Dream Lake - Easy Hike for One Day In Rocky Mountain National Park
Dream Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park

Drive Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road is a must see if you are visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.

This paved road is the highest in the United States. At the peak of the road, you reach 12,183 feet. If you want to drive the entire road, you should plan for around 2 hours of driving. There are numerous places to pull off for scenic views of the mountains and Continental Divide.

Trail Ridge Road Scenic View – Must Visit For One Day In Rocky Mountain National Park

Visit Alpine Visitor Center

At the peak of Trail Ridge Road, you will find the Alpine Visitor Center.

This Visitor Center sits at the highest elevation of the entire National Park system. Inside you can find a gift shop, restrooms, and a cafe. The cafe has sweet treats, coffee, and possibly more. We decided to go with some coffee and a m&m cookie. We indulged these inside the cafe with views of the alpine tundra outside.

What’s better than that?

Alpine Visitor Center Cafe – Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunset at Bear Lake

Sunset at Bear Lake is one of our favorite views in the park.

There are benches surrounding the lake where you can relax at Golden Hour. The evening time is when the park traffic mellows out, so you will not need a permit for sunset. You more than likely will not need to fight for a parking spot either.

This is definitely a great way to end your day!

Sunset at Bear Lake – Rocky Mountain National Park


These are the 4 best things to do if you want to capitalize on one day in the park.

You will get the Rocky Mountain National Park vibe from hiking to driving the beautiful alpine tundra. If you get the opportunity to stay more than 1 day, you definitely should.

There is tons of exploring left to do!