Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park In March
There is nothing like being in the crisp mountain air of a fresh snowfall in Rocky Mountain National Park. The sound of the breeze through the thicket of spruce and fur gives a peace that transcends all around you and calms your soul. The way the winter light filters through the trees and illuminates the mountains is mystical.
Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in March will be an experience that is difficult to get any other place on the planet. With the quiet of the forest, you will be able to really get away and refresh your body, mind and spirit.
How is the weather in Rocky Mountain National Park in March?
The weather in March is comparatively pleasant in March. When you look at the sub zero temperatures and the feet of snow that fall in other months in winter, March is a day at the beach. However, you will still see snow. But, this adds a whole other dimension to your travel plans in a positively splendid way!
In March you can expect to see temperatures in the forties during the day and below freezing at night. The likelihood for snow is still high in March where you can expect to get an average of 5-6 inches of snow. This only adds to the fun and excitement of this time of year and can mean beautiful scenery and a chance to capture it all on your camera.
Is it difficult to drive into and around the park?
In March the weather is pleasant but can still be unpredictable. If you are flying into Denver and plan to drive into Estes Park, ensure that you rent an AWD vehicle and carry snow chains. In March you are required to carry tire chains inside the park as you may need them at any time. The mountain roads of the park that are open most likely will be plowed, but could be snow packed as well. Being prepared will cut down on the uncertainty and possible stress.
Although the park gets a lot of snow throughout the winter, the park gates are open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. They only rarely close for a major snowstorm, but single roads may be closed temporarily for plowing and clearing.
Trail Ridge Road will most likely be open to Many Parks Curve. Beyond, it will stay closed until the thaw in May. Therefore, a trip up to Alpine Visitor Center will have to wait until your next trip during the warmer months. Fall River Road is completely closed until the spring thaw, but it is opened to snow shoeing and cross country skiers during winter.
Will the park be crowded in March?
March is a time of transition in the park. February is brutal in terms of weather, so this keeps many away. In March, temperatures moderate and schools begin taking Spring Break, which makes March more crowded.
However, there won’t be nearly the visitation that the spring and summer months bring. Expect to see people, but parking should be manageable at trailheads and you won’t have to apply for a Timed Entry Permit, which requires you to enter the park at a given time to curtail crowds. This is only required between late May and early October.
Furthermore, Estes Park is totally open. Restaurants, outfitters and other entertainment are ready to do business. In January and February, many shops are closed, so coming to visit in March gives you this benefit to add to your vacation fun.
Do I need special gear for hiking in the park in March?
Hiking is different in March due to the snow and ice packed ground present on may trails. Make sure you have a good pair of waterproof hiking boots for walking the trails. You can also rent everything you need in Estes Park through gear shops and mountain outfitters. Rent Snow hiking boots, snowshoes, cross country skis, crampons and spikes through these retailers, making it easier to pack for your vacation.
You will need some outerwear fit for the snow as well. Waterproof jackets layered over fleece and waterproof lined pants are a must when on the trails in March. Top that off with a warm hat and waterproof mittens or gloves. You can check with park rangers at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center to get trail conditions so that you are prepared for anything.
What activities are there to do in March in and around the park?
There are a multitude of winter sports and activities to partake of in and around Rocky Mountain National Park. Inside and outside the park, there is something for everyone.
If hiking boots won’t do the trick, strap on some snowshoes and go on a hike. There are still a lot of trails open in the park during March. Try Fern or Gem Lake for a moderate hike into a frozen wonderland of ice and snow. You can also try the five sub-alpine lakes in the Bear Lake Corridor. Enjoy hiking to Bear, Nymph, Dream, Haiyaha, and Emerald Lakes for a total of 6.2 miles with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. Take this all into consideration when completing this hike. You will have to leave earlier to get finished earlier because of the early sunset. It will also take you longer because snowshoeing is slower than hiking.
Cross country skiing is also a great sport to try in the park. For beginners, the Sprague Lake Trail is great for a flat hike and amazing views. If you want something longer and more challenging Glacier Gorge is spectacular in winter. The 5.6 mile hike to Mills Lake will be chock full of the winter scenery and the views that made you want to come to the park in the first place.
Grand Lake, on the western side of the park, is home to some of the most outstanding snowmobiling in the world. With 300 miles of snowmobiling trails, you are bound to have an experience like no other. In fact, in Grand Lake in winter, snowmobiling becomes the preferred method of transportation through and around town. The town does not plow their roads, allowing you to take your rig downtown and see the sights. Contact a guide or rental outfit in Grand Lake and plan an adventure you’ll never forget.
If the ice is still thick enough and it is smooth you can try ice skating on one of the many alpine lakes in the park. However, if luck isn’t on your side There are a couple of places in Estes Park. Dorsey Pond at YMCA of the Rockies is a great place near the park entrance to skate. Trout Haven, which is a fishing pond turned ice rink in winter, is also a fun place to spend your time.
If you have kids with you, then they will want to go sledding. No skill or stamina is required and a day of fun is guaranteed! Within the park, along Trail Ridge Road, there is a former ski hill just below Many Parks Curve. You can also head over to Hidden Valley and take your tikes sledding on the lower slopes of this former ski area of the park.
Coming to Rocky Mountain National Park in winter may seem like a challenging way to spend your vacation, but with so much to do and the beauty that is unrivaled anywhere else in the world, spending your time here in March will be one of the best decisions you can make.
Also check out our favorite month to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.