Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in the Rocky Mountains

  • Published 2022/12/13

The iconic Rocky Mountains are colossal mountain ranges stretching about 3,000 miles in Canada and the United States.

Over 100 separate ranges form part of the Rockies, with many peaks having an elevation of over 13,000 feet.

In the United States, the Rockies span the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico.

Various national parks, monuments, and preserves have been established to protect and guide recreation in the US Rockies.

Featuring varied mountain landscapes, canyons, and lakes, these recreation areas offer adventurers plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors.

With abundant natural snow, these mountains also offer some of the best skiing opportunities.

Here are the best things to do in the Rocky Mountains in the United States to get you started planning your adventure:

See Natural Wonders at the Yellowstone National Park

Waterfall at Yellowstone National Park

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Start your American Rocky Mountains adventure at Yellowstone National Park.

Established in 1872, the park is the world’s first national park.

It protects hydrothermal areas that are home to around half of the active geysers in the world.

Explore the park’s fascinating geologic and hydrothermal features, including active geysers, thermal basins, and hot springs.

The waters of Yellowstone National Park

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Don’t miss the Old Faithful Geyser, one of the most prominent destinations within the park.

If you’re into nature photography, enjoy spectacular views and capture the beauty of the Yellowstone River.

Yellowstone National Park spans 3,500 square miles in northwest Wyoming, with a small area extending to Montana and Idaho.

Prismatic pool at Yellowstone National Park

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Take a Tour of Glacier National Park

Bus tour at Glacier National Park

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Take the family on a bus tour around Glacier National Park.

Recognized as an international biosphere reserve, the park is home to stunning glaciers, meadows, valleys, and lakes.

These landscapes, along with their diverse plant life and wildlife, feature breathtaking views.

Scenic landscape at Glacier National Park

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Hop on a bus tour and enjoy a day out on the beautiful roads of the park, passing along and stopping at many of the park’s lovely spots.

As the tour is interpretive, you’ll see stunning landscapes and get to know the rich history and culture of the area.

Glacier National Park is in Montana.

Valley road at Glacier National Park

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Ride Sandboards at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

Daytime view of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind Rocky Mountain adventure, plan a trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado.

Originally established as a national monument in 1932, the park protects North America’s tallest dunes.

Get your gear ready and hike to the dune field for hours of play.

Enjoy spectacular landscape views as you ride your sandboards or sleds down the slopes.

Hiker with a sand-board at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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If you have kids in tow, there are smaller slopes where they can enjoy the experience.

The park also preserves various diverse ecosystems, including complex dune systems.

You can also explore the dunefield if you’re looking for more adventure.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located along north CO 150.

People sliding down the slopes of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

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Hike the Rocky Mountain National Park

Bear lake at Rocky Mountain National Park

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Plan a hike to the Rocky Mountain National Park.

The park covers over 250,000 acres in Colorado, encompassing mountain peaks, meadows, and lakes.

It has over 300 trails, offering scenic hikes and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Take a hike to the Loch, one of the three lakes in the Loch Vale and one of the most prominent destinations in the park.

An elk at Rocky Mountain National Park

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The 5.4-mile hike will take you through lovely aspen groves and a picturesque gorge.

As you finish the trail, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the peaks and glaciers.

You can reach the Rocky Mountain National Park via US Highway 34 or 36.

Hikers at Rocky Mountain National Park

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Go Fishing at the Grand Teton National Park

The waters of Grand Teton National Park

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Pack your tackles and head to a fishing trip at the Grand Teton National Park.

The park, as it is today, was established in 1950, but its history dates back to a 1929 park and the 1943 National Monument.

Visiting the park will treat you to a striking landscape of valleys, mountains, rivers, and lakes, which serves as home to diverse wildlife and flora.

Fishing at Grand Teton National Park

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With lovely nature views around, enjoy the solitude of fishing for trout and whitefish at the park’s lakes, rivers, and streams.

If you prefer to go on a guided trip, there are official fishing guides that can tailor an adventure for you.

The Grand Teton National Park is in northwestern Wyoming.

Boats on the water of Grand Teton National Park

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Explore the Natural Beauty of the Garden of the Gods

Scenic view of Garden of the Gods

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See the fantastic rock formations at the Garden of the Gods.

This public park is in Colorado Springs and is home to striking sedimentary rock formations resulting from ancient mountains’ erosion.

Explore by electric bike and enjoy hours of breathtaking nature views and fresh air.

If you prefer taking in the views, you can take a segway tour at a slower pace.

Bike ride at Garden of the Gods

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You can also go horseback riding on the trails.

For an exciting off-road excursion, take the family on a fantastic jeep tour into the wilderness.

Designated as a National Natural Landmark, the Garden of the Gods is home to over 20 miles of beautiful trails you can explore on foot.

Horseback riding at Garden of the Gods

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Catch a Show at the Stunning Amphitheatre of Red Rocks Park

Night lights of the Amphitheatre of Red Rocks Park

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See the beauty of the Rocky Mountains’ eastern slopes when you visit Red Rocks Park in Denver, Colorado.

Spanning over 600 acres, this park boasts spectacular nature views and an extraordinary concert venue!

The park’s acoustically perfect arena has hosted various arts and culture events since the 1940s.

Catch a music show with friends, grab a beer, and enjoy the magical experience in the outdoors.

Main stage of the Amphitheatre of Red Rocks Park

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Aside from the amphitheater, the park features trails for hiking and biking, a restaurant, a gift shop, and picnic sites.

The park also showcases a sweeping 200-mile panoramic view of the city and surrounding plains.

You can reach Red Rocks Park via I-70.

People at the Amphitheatre of Red Rocks Park

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Enjoy the Winter in Breckenridge

Aerial view of Breckenridge

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If you’re fond of spending winter outdoors, take a winter vacation in Breckenridge.

Located at the center of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, this lovely mountain town offers plenty of opportunities for winter recreation.

Explore the town’s five peaks for skiing and snowboarding on the slopes.

Create beautiful winter memories with your kids as you enjoy sledding down the hills.

Snow-covered street at Breckenridge

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For a unique experience, hop on a dog sled and enjoy a Rocky Mountain adventure led by Siberian Huskies!

Apart from activities in the snow, you can also explore the town’s Main Street and its dining and shopping scene.

Breckenridge is in Summit County, about 80 miles west of Denver.

Skiing at Breckenridge

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Go Stargazing at the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

Milky way over Craters of the Moon National Monument

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Drive to Idaho for a unique wilderness adventure at the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve.

With volcanic terrain, this park is home to strange but beautiful landscapes, offering plenty of opportunities for a day of hiking, scenic drives, and caving.

It is also an excellent spot for stargazing if you want to explore more.

Lava field at Craters of the Moon National Monument

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Gather your friends for an overnight trail trip and enjoy stargazing in the enchanting wilderness.

Located in the state’s southwest, you can reach the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve via US Highway 20/26/93.

Hikers at Craters of the Moon National Monument

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Explore the Trails and History at the Big Hole National Battlefield

Welcome sign of Big Hole National Battlefield

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Experience the beauty and hear past stories at the historic Big Hole National Battlefield.

This landmark is the site of the historic battle in 1877 during the flight of the Nez Perce tribe, the native people of Idaho.

Dive into the area’s history when you join a ranger program or battlefield tour.

Cannon at Big Hole National Battlefield

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You can also listen to talks on the deck while enjoying the views of the landscape.

The Big Hole National Battlefield is in southwestern Montana and is accessible via Highway 43.

Tepee pole at Big Hole National Battlefield

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Marvel at the Fossils at the Dinosaur National Monument

People admiring the fossils at Dinosaur National Monument

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Get transported back in time when you visit the Dinosaur National Monument.

Established in 1925, the park protects one of the 20th century’s most significant dinosaur fossil finds.

Wander along the quarry exhibit hall and marvel at the sight of around 1,500 dinosaur bones.

Dinosaur skull at Dinosaur National Monument

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You can also explore petroglyph sites, where you can see etchings that the Fremont people who inhabited the area left behind on rock walls.

The park also offers breathtaking canyon sceneries and river views.

The Dinosaur National Monument spans over 200,000 acres along the border of Colorado and Utah.

Fossils at Dinosaur National Monument

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Take a Dip in the Hot Springs at Steamboat Springs

People swimming at Steamboat Springs' hot spring

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Enjoy a relaxing vacation at Steamboat Springs.

Established in 1900, this alpine city in northwest Colorado is a recreational destination known for skiing and mineral springs.

The use of these natural springs has a rich history that dates back to the indigenous peoples of the Yampa Valley.

Take a rejuvenating dip at the city’s hot spring pools and facilities.

If you want to know more about this natural attraction, you can take a self-guided tour of the mineral springs in the area.

Explore downtown to experience its dining, arts, and culture scene.

The city of Steamboat Springs is about 160 miles from Denver.

Take in the Breathtaking Scenery at Pikes Peak

Hikers at Pikes Peak

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Enjoy a breathtaking Rocky Mountain experience at Pikes Peak.

Situated near Colorado Springs, this mountain’s summit stands at over 14,000 feet!

However, don’t be intimated by its elevation as it is also one of the most accessible peaks in that elevation range.

The mountain’s recreation area is home to lakes and trails, and there are various ways that you can enjoy this gorgeous destination.

Aerial view of Pikes Peak

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Pack a picnic and take a superb drive up with your family.

If you want to focus on the views, you can take a relaxing guided tour instead.

You can also hop on a trail that runs along the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway to enjoy views of the rugged backcountry up to the summit.

Railcar at Pikes Peak

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Visit the Bandelier National Monument

Cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument


Take a trip to New Mexico and visit the Bandelier National Monument.

Situated in the Southern Rocky Mountains area, this park protects over 30,000 acres of canyon and mesa country.

The park showcases beautiful landscapes and rich history, as it holds evidence of human presence dating as far as over 11,000 years ago.

Get a glimpse of this ancient human history as you explore the park.

Trail at Bandelier National Monument

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At the same time, you can take in scenic views of the rugged canyon, and a peek at the area’s rich wildlife.

There are also campgrounds if you’d like to explore longer or enjoy more of the outdoors.

You can reach Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos via New Mexico 4.

Ruins at Bandelier National Monument

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Other Things to Do Nearby

See the Global Art Collection at the Denver Art Museum

Exterior of Denver Art Museum

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Spend a day of art appreciation at the Denver Art Museum.

Established in 1893, this museum features over 70,000 works of art and several collections.

Stroll along the galleries and see the beauty of North American indigenous art, pre-1900 European pieces, and Asian masterpieces.

Interior of Denver Art Museum

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The works of local artists in the Rocky Mountains region are also featured in the museum’s collections.

You can also view photography, design, and other contemporary works.

The Denver Art Museum is located in the city’s downtown area.

Exhibit in Denver Art Museum

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Final Thoughts

The Rocky Mountains are an iconic destination for their natural wonders, spectacular sceneries, and rich culture and history.

Spanning several states, the US Rockies are home to incredible peaks, diverse landscapes, and rich habitats.

These features offer a variety of outdoor recreation activities throughout the year, from camping, hiking, and exploring during the warmer months to snow sports in the winter.

Plan your visit now and experience the best things to do in the Rocky Mountains in the United States.

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