4. Pack Your Picnic Lunch
Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy along Trail Ridge Road. There are several picnic areas with picnic tables and tremendous views. You will want to plan to eat before 11 or after 1. This way, you will avoid the rush hour crowd and have the time to enjoy your lunch. There are two grocery stores in Estes Park, and both are easy to find.
We enjoy picnicking at Hidden Valley. It offers flush toilets and a picnic area with hiking trails all around. Keep your food packaging closed to keep the ground squirrels from enjoying a meal, as it’s never okay to feed the wildlife in a national park.
Pro Tip: Pack a blanket for your tablecloth.
5. Pack Snacks
In addition to your picnic lunch, you will want to pack plenty of snacks. Peanuts, chocolate, apples, bananas, and grapes make for easy-to-pack and eat snacks. It is also crucial that you pack plenty of water. Drink a lot of water, as it will help keep you hydrated and ward off any potential headaches. Pack your snacks in a day backpack. This way, you will be prepared to hike if you come upon a trail you would like to try. Always take a backpack with you, even if you think your hike will be a short one. It’s always better to be prepared than not.
6. Pack Your Binoculars
Your binoculars will come in handy as you drive Trail Ridge Road. The bighorn sheep and elk can often be elusive, and binoculars will help bring them into view. We have enjoyed watching magpies through the years. This black-and-white-colored bird is always fun to watch. If it’s not flying between picnic tables looking for food, you can find them high up in the greens of the trees.
Editor’s Note: See our picks for the best binoculars for any budget here.
7. Visit The Alpine Visitor Center
The Alpine Visitor Center sits at 11,796 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. This park facility opens mid-morning, and it’s a fun place to stop on your way back from the west side. You can find souvenirs and an opportunity to visit with a park ranger. Park rangers offer guided tours and presentations about lightning and the tundra. If you decide to walk around, be sure to bundle up, as the temperature will be several degrees cooler than here than it is at lower elevations. I recommend a winter coat, gloves, and a hat. It is usually cold and windy on the top of Trail Ridge Road. If you choose to hike, stay on the trails so you do not disturb the tundra.