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Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Montain National Park

Main elk viewing areas – East side of Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Moraine Park
  • Horseshoe Park
  • Upper Beaver Meadows

Main elk viewing areas – West side of Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Harbison Meadow
  • Holzwarth Meadow
  • Throughout the Kawuneeche Valley

Click here to download a basic map of the park.

The quieter side to stay in Rocky Mountain National Park is near the Grand Lake area entrance is where you will most likely find moose. Of course, early morning and at their dinner time is the best time to go looking. Take a look at the image to the right. We, unfortunately, did not get a good moose picture. We show you this on to emphasize the importance of having a good zoom lens. This image was taken with a Canon 400 mm 4.0 but he was just way too far. It was taken before we ate breakfast on the Grand Lake side of the town in the Kuawuneeche Valley where many moose call home.

We ate Sagebrush BBQ and Grill for dinner and liked it so much we went back for breakfast.  Go early for any breakfast. There are lines everywhere at your quick take out places.  Better yet, bring a thermos in your suitcase, pack your meal to go and get out there early.  Then you don’t have to worry that the lines will hold you up. Lines were holding us up and it was late September.

Some viewing areas are closed at night not to interfere with the rut. This sign says September 1 through October 31.

Alpine Vistors Center – 11,176 ft.

Rocky Mountain Where to Stay

INFO - PHOTO MAGAZINE EXTRA - photography magazine extra, photography, where to do, how to do, travel photography, Pam Goodyer

Photography Information

Lens: This area is a wide angle lens location, and you will need a zoom lens. Wildlife is the main attraction here. If you don’t have a good zoom lens or cannot afford to buy one we highly suggest that you rent one.

Gear:  Bring your tripod and your circular polarizing filters. The CPL will make your white puffy clouds burst and deepen the blue sky color around them.  It will also take the glare off the water and replace it with the reflection. Bring your tripod too.  If there is not enough light when you are shooting, you will want to use it to get the depth of field, (higher F-stop). Don’t forget your ND filter in case you want to shoot moving waters.

Gear List at a Glance: Circular polarizing filter, neutral density filter, tripod, shutter release, wide angle and zoom lens.

When to Go: 

Rocky Mountain National Park is at its peak visitation in summer and fall. June – September. Trail Ridge Road is open only from Memorial Day to mid-October, but the dates may vary. The crowds are thinner in early June and later September. Fall foliage starts to peak in mid-September. The yellow Aspens make for some stupendous images.

Spring can be a chance to get some new growth, or you could still be hit with a blizzard. You can photograph both, but there is a chance of plane delay if a storm rolls in. June will vary and can be rainy. July – September. On Trail Ridge Road, it can be 15°F–20°F cooler than at the park’s lower elevations. Wildlife viewing and fishing photography are good all year long, but fall has the rut when the bull elks get active. The rut plus yellow aspen and less humans in mid-October is ideal.

Camera Settings

Aperture Priority – It is used to get your depth of field (control how much is in focus from your subject back). If your shutter speed drops to 1/30th sec. or lower it is because you lack light you will need to put your camera on a tripod to avoid blurry pictures. Anything handheld below 1/30 sec will be blurry. The higher the “f” number the less light that will come in and your shutter speed will drop to let more light in. When your “f” number goes up your aperture closes. At f-22 you are barely letting any light in.  Always watch your shutter speed.  When taking your shot look at the bottom of the screen through the viewfinder and check your shutter speed. Do not to let your shutter speed go too low when hand holding.  Sometimes you cannot get a super high f stop because you do not have enough light. This will happen quite often at times such as sunset. Again, put your camera on a tripod and now your photos will not blur except for any subject that is moving in the image.

When doing shots such as flowers, you might want the opposite effect. That is when your subject is in complete focus and the background is totally blurred called the bokeh effect. You will use your lowest F-number such as 2.8, or 3.5. Go as small as your particular lens will allow.  Shooting in Aperture Priority allows you to control this.

Shutter Priority – If you have moving subjects such as the birds flying by you will want to shoot in shutter priority to be sure they come out clear. When people are walking through shoot at 1/250th sec. and adjust your ISO accordingly. If people or animals are running by increasing your shutter speed to about 1/500th sec. If it’s a bright sunny day go as high as 1/1000th to 1/1200 sec. to get the birds crystal clear as they fly by.

Manual Mode – If you find moving waters here you can do your long exposure running, milky water shots.  You will have to use a tripod for this effect.  All of your settings will vary depending on the lighting and what neutral density filter you have. You will shoot in manual mode for the milky waters. ISO is always 100 or as low as your camera will allow. Aperture is f22. Your shutter speed will vary depending on the light. Take some test shots to decide on your shutter speed after you put your neutral density filter on. (It’s like sunglasses for your camera to stop light from coming in). Use your live view mode to focus to lock the mirror up and avoid any camera movement. Use your shutter release or your 2-second timer to also prevent camera movement. Voila. You now have your milky water exposure. You will want at least a 2-second exposure for running water. If you don’t have a neutral density filter, you may not get more than 1/15th of a second in the sun. That does not give you a good effect. Go to our store to buy your ND filter. I have a 3.0 for super long exposure in the sunshine.

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Park and Area Information

Entrance Fees: “Day Use Pass” will be $20 while the weekly pass will increase to $30, Annual Passes are $50.  Rocky Mountain National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, weather permitting.

Photography Magazine Extra Pam Goodyer

Hotel Information

See our recommendations above.  We highly suggest these two outstanding places to stay.

food and dining photography magazine extra


camping photography magazine extra, photography, where to do, how to do, travel photography, Pam Goodyer



Manor Park of Estes – Estes Park

Spend the night or the whole summer with them. They offer nightly, weekly, monthly and seasonal rentals.  Centrally located between Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park, you’ll see wildlife and get to enjoy fishing on the Big Thompson River (with license).

Click here to go to Rates and Reservations.

15 – October 15.  970-586-3251.

Great location! 5 minutes to Rocky Mountain Natl Park
Jellystone Park of Estes
5495 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517

Surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest, Jellystone Park of Estes is the perfect Campground and RV Park for your family to explore nature at its best!  Relax in nature, or join their planned activities for “kids” of all ages.  A variety of sites are set among towering Ponderosa pines where wildlife abounds. Weekend Pancake Breakfasts.  Pet-friendly campsites!

Seven Pines Campground

Hermit Park Open Space
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