Budget Vacations: Budgeting Your Trip to…Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park encompasses 415 square miles of this Western mountain range. Featuring hundreds of miles of trails, camping, horseback riding and the highest traveled highway in the nation, RNMP is a destination for many tourists throughout the entire year. In addition to being on of the nation’s most visited parks, despite the devastating damage during the floods of 2013, it is convenient to many other areas of Northern Colorado that are tourist areas themselves.

Getting to the park and staying there aren’t the most expensive items to budget out — well, depending on the time you visit, that is. What can start to rack up costs is the shopping, fine dining and the microbreweries — a staple of the Northern Colorado area. Here are a few tips on how to budget the get to, stay at and enjoyment of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Getting There

Unlike some other Western national parks, getting to RMNP is fairly convenient. Those who fly can land at the expansive and modern Denver International Airport. Serving most major airlines, the cost of flying into DIA ranges from $150 to $400 round-trip depending on the city you fly out of and the time of the year. The next step is to rent a car. DIA services most of the national chains. Best to check with the individual carriers or online travel sites for more information. Those who prefer to drive will need to factor in costs of gas, accommodations and dining as they travel Interstate highways 70, 80 or 25 to get to the park.

Entering the Park

The cost to enter Rocky Mountain National Park is $20 per carload and lasts for up to seven days. You can also purchase a annual pass for $40 that is good for the selected park or one for $80 good at any federal recreation site across America. Other fees apply for camping at designated sites as well as in the backcountry. RMNP does offer a handful of fee-free days throughout the year; however, these can be very crowded, so plan accordingly.

Staying There

There are no accommodations on this National Park’s land, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t a place to lay your head. In fact, the entry town of Estes Park has a number of excellent places to stay that range from the old and luxurious Stanley Hotel, inspiration for the hotel in The Shining, to the beautiful cabins of the YMCA of the Rockies, which is not like the YMCA in your hometown. Accommodations that are 30 to 60 minutes away from the Western entrance of the park are located in the Front Range cities of Longmont, Loveland and Fort Collins. Costs can range anywhere from $129 to $300 per night. Again, consult a travel agent or online site for additional information.

Eating and Drinking There

You can’t leave the Rocky Mountain National Park region without indulging in some fine food and drink in the cities of Northern Colorado. For example, the city of Fort Collins not only features a downtown area that was the inspiration for Main Street in Disneyland but also has the largest concentration of restaurants and microbreweries in the area. Some of those craft houses include O’Dell’s and the growing New Belgium. Loveland and Longmont also feature some great places to eat and drink. Closer to the park, the flood-recovering Estes Park has a downtown chock full of little cafés and coffee houses waiting for tourists to populate. How much you spend on these depends on what you budget for a meal.


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