Weather in Rocky Mountain National Park

‘Unpredictable weather alternates between warm and cold, wet and dry.’ – National Park Service

The summer is flying by. I want to stop and remember the sweet moments, so today I’m going back to write about our first adventure of the summer. We are always excited to take our annual Memorial Day trip to Estes Park, Colorado, but this year felt extra special because we had the opportunity to share our favorite spots with some of our best friends.

This was our friends’ first visit to Colorado, so they were excited to explore. Unfortunately, for the first couple days of our trip, the weather was overcast, cold, and rainy. Despite the gloomy skies, I was impressed with everyone’s positive attitudes and willingness to get out and hike.

Packing for trip to Estes Park, Colorado
Welcome to Colorado!

Weather in rocky mountain national park

Preparing for the trip, my friend asked me what to pack. It’s a tougher question than you might think because the weather in Rocky Mountain National Park seems to always be changing. I suggested packing warm coats in case it snows, water-proof items in case it rains, and shorts for when it is sunny. Good thing they have a minivan to fit it all in, right? We typically wear comfortable layers because we’ve experienced all of these weather conditions in one day – especially when we drive up the mountain to higher elevation.

The perfect evidence of this can be seen live on Rocky Mountain National Park’s webcams. As I write, the mid-day temperature listed on the Continental Divide webcam says 71.6 F while the Alpine Visitor Center webcam reads 48.2 F.

The National Park has resources on their website that give up-to-date information for weather in Rocky Mountain National Park. This includes current road conditions , current trail conditions, and Rocky Mountain National Park weather trends by season.

Best Hikes Rocky Mountain National Park: Early Season Hikes

We consider early season hikes ones that are lower in elevation because snow is common on trails in late spring and early summer in popular destinations like Bear Lake. Check out our post about Lower Elevation Hikes for ideas.

On this trip, we chose Lily Lake/ Lily Ridge for its views of Longs Peak and Twin Sisters Peaks and accessible path that’s easy for kids. The hike around Lily Lake remains one of our favorite short hikes in the park. Adding on Lily Ridge makes the hike a little more challenging, but I think the views are worth it.

Lily Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park
Hike up Lily Ridge

Next, we hiked in the Wild Basin up to Calypso Cascades. With so much rain and snow melt, we had to be careful in the Wild Basin as we hiked near waterfalls and rushing streams. The kids all did a great job staying on the path. Near Calypso Cascades, there were even a few spots of snow on the trail. The kids thought it was the coolest part.

This hike was a little more challenging for our crew. It is 1.8 miles each way and gains 780 feet of elevation. We didn’t hear any grumbles though, perhaps the key to complain-free hiking is inviting a best buddy along.

Weather in Rocky Mountain National park
rain, rain, go away!
Weather in Rocky Mountain National park
Copeland Falls in Wild Basin
Wild Basin trail
Calypso Cascades RMNP

Beyond hiking, we enjoyed staying dry inside by visiting some of our favorite Estes Park restaurants including Latitude 105.

Estes Park restaurants
sharing a lemonade at Latitude 101

I was thankful the dads offered to hang out with the kids for a few hours so my friend and I could get some much-needed girl-chat at Snowy Peaks Winery.

Estes Park winery

Overall, I hope that our friends had a good first trip to Colorado (despite the colder weather). We loved sharing Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park with them!

Missouri Lavender Farm

I just got back from a relaxing weekend in Columbia, Missouri. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Battlefield Lavender Farm in Centralia, Missouri, which is about 25 minutes from Columbia.

My sister pre-purchased our reservations online. The tickets were $6.00 each. You can order tickets here.

We decided to clip a mixed bundle of lavender from the wide variety growing on the farm and were provided with an adorable wooden crate, measuring guide, and clippers. Several of the lavender varieties are edible and could be used for cooking.

Once our lavender was picked, we headed into their barn to pay for the bundle ($15) and view the lavender merchandise. I bought a lovely lavender hand lotion, and my sister purchased a linen spray and lavender soap. I regret not buying more because I think the items would make such unique and thoughtful gifts. On the bright side, I have a good excuse to go back!

After picking lavender in the heat of the summer, we treated ourselves to a refreshing scoop of ice cream at Sparky’s in downtown Columbia. Inspired by our excursion, I ordered the honey lavender flavor.

My sister and I split our bundle of lavender. I brought my half back home and will have it hanging up for the next few weeks to dry.

Overall, I would recommend a visit to Battlefield Lavender Farm, especially for a ladies outing or a romantic date. I don’t know if my little ones (ages 4 and 6) would have been able to trim the lavender safely – for them or the plant. There was also a lot of bees, which is awesome for pollination, but something to keep in mind for those with allergies. Picking season is short, so check out their website or follow the farm on social media @battlefieldlavender for all the details!

Staying at The Lodge at Gulf State Park

Today I want to share one of the highlights of our year. We took a family trip to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama over Spring Break in mid/late March 2021.

We drove from our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas to Gulf Shores. The drive takes approximately 11 hours, so we broke up the journey by spending the night in a hotel on the way down. After so many hours in the car, we were eager to get out of the car and explore the Lodge.

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The Lodge at Gulf State Park is A Hilton Hotel. We booked the 1 King – 1 Bunk Bed Studio Suite. The girls loved the bunk beds and the view of Lake Shelby across the street. My husband and I also used the studio suite as a cozy office space.

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Lake Shelby Gulf State Park
View of Lake Shelby

Another feature of the room we liked was the private balcony. This was a relaxing spot to sip a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise over the ocean. The girls also used the balcony as an art space to do watercolor paintings.

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The only challenge with the room was the small mini fridge. For families who need gallons of milk like ours does, I recommend bringing a good cooler. We also took advantage of the onsite restaurants including Roasted Oak coffee shop, Dragonside pool side, and Food Craft. My favorite meal was the Gulf Shrimp and Grits.

Restaurants Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Outdoor seating at Food Craft Restaurant at Gulf State Park
Pool Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

The average temperature in Gulf Shores, Alabama in March is between 58 and 70 degrees F according to weather-us.com. The beautiful outdoor pool was not heated, but our girls were brave and enjoyed splashing around in the pool almost as much as they liked playing in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.

This was our youngest daughter’s first time seeing the ocean. As a parent, I can’t imagine a better memory than watching my kids take in the vastness of the ocean for the first time.

Ocean Views Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

We also had a blast searching for seashells on the long, white beaches that stretched for miles outside the Lodge.

Sea Shells Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Shells on the beach Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
looking for seashells Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama top family vacation

We decided to leave a day early because of Red flag conditions and thunderstorm forecasts. This left us feeling like we had more to explore including the hiking and biking trails around Lake Shelby. Here is a map of the full park. Here is a link with more ideas about things to do in Gulf State Park.

We stayed at the Lodge, however the park offers a variety of accomodations including camping (Gulf State Park Campground Map).

Overall, I highly recommend the Lodge at Gulf Shores State Park. If you want to enjoy warmer temperatures, plan for later in the season. However, if you want lower prices, Spring Break was an awesome option for our family. Personally, I’d like to go back during Sea Turtle season which is May through October.

Planning a Memorial Day Trip to Estes Park, Colorado 2021

This year I decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree in teaching, and I also started working part-time as a preschool teacher. I love it, but I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write on this site. Now, as the school year is winding down, I’m excited to start planning our summer and begin writing again. The first thing on our list is our annual Memorial Day trip to the mountains. It is hard to believe that we will be heading to our cabin in Estes Park, Colorado in just a couple of weeks.

This Memorial Day, we are excited to host our friends who have never been to Colorado before. As we talked through the new timed-entry permit and the restrictions on hiking in areas of the park due to recent wild fires, I realized that planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park feels pretty complicated this year. I’ve attempted to summarize the new system below:

Rocky Mountain National Park Timed-Entry Permit

What: 2 hour reservation to enter the park. There isn’t a restriction on how long you can stay. Parking is not guaranteed. Reservations must be made in advance.

Cost: $2/vehicle + normal park entry fees

When: May 28 – October 11 (pilot program)

Where: There are two types of permits, one for the Bear Lake Road CorridorĀ and another for the rest of the park.

Bear Lake Road Corridor + Rest of the Park– required between 5 am to 6 pm.

Non-Bear Lake Pass – required between 9 am to 3 pm.

How: Reservations for May and June can be made online now through recreation.gov. Reservations for July open up on June 1.

More Information: National Park website.

hiking suggestions

Some of our favorite early season hikes such as Hollowell Park, Cub Lake and Fern Lake are inaccessible right now (as of 5/16/21) because of damage caused by wildfires in 2020. Before planning hikes, make sure to check out the latest information on closures here.

This year we hope to visit the Wild Basin, Gem Lake, Lily Lake, Bierstadt Lake, and Sprague Lake.

The Wild Basin tops our wish list because it wasn’t impacted by the wildfires and the elevation is lower compared to other areas in the park, which means typically there is less snow in May/June. There are also several beautiful waterfalls, and the trail is pretty easy for young kids to hike (ages 4- 7).

Gem Lake also avoided fire damage. Even though it is a short hike, it gains a lot of elevation (1,000 ft.). I’m not sure if we will make it to the top, but there are great views along the way and unique rock formations that the kids will love. Even if we make it half way, the hike will be memorable.

Lily Lake is our go-to hike. No matter what time of year or time of day, it’s always a great choice. We enjoy adding the Lily Ridge trail to lengthen the otherwise short hike around the lake.

Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake are in the Bear Lake corridor. This means they are popular attractions and require the Bear Lake corridor pass. These start at decent elevations, so it’s possible to encounter slush or even significant snow in May. We’ve spotted elk and moose in this area, and the views of the continental divide are truly spectacular at both destinations.

I can’t wait to share our favorite places with our friends. Even though it’s a little complicated, I know our trip will be well-worth the extra effort. I’m also hopeful that the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park that have been overused will benefit from less traffic, and that those impacted by fire will be soon on the road to a beautiful recovery!

Related Posts:

How to Survive a Long Family Road Trip

Memorial Day in Rocky Mountain National Park

Moose Spotting Makes for a Memorable Morning Hike Around Sprague Lake