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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, we did not get a good moose picture. We show you this on to emphasize the importance of having the right 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.

Rocky Mountain Where to Stay

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Park behind Colorado Cabin Adventures – Moose are found near this lake and marshy area.

Photography Information

Here is some basic information for your trip. You can find more detailed instructions on some of our other pages.

Photography Hot Spot Location Photography Information

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. OnTrail 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 fewer humans in mid-October are ideal.


Camera Settings

Aperture Priority

It is generally used to control the depth of field (control how much is in focus from your subject back). If your shutter speed drops to 1/30th sec. or lower 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 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 a sunset. Again, put your camera on a tripod, and now your photos will not blur except for any subject moving in the image.

You might want the opposite effect. That is when your subject is in complete focus, and the background is 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 people moving, you will want to shoot in shutter priority to be sure your images come out sharp. When people are moving slowly, shoot at 1/250th sec, and adjust your ISO accordingly. If they are moving very fast, increase your shutter speed to about 1/1000th sec. If it’s a bright sunny day, go as high as 1/1200 second for very fast-moving subjects.

Manual Mode

If you have 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 shutter release or your 2-second timer also to prevent camera movement. Voila. You now have your milky water exposure. You will want at least a 5-second exposure for 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. We like a 3.0 for super long exposure in the daytime, and we have a ten stop filter for bright sunny days.

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.

Colorado Cabin Adventures 

Phone: 970-509-0810

12082 US Highway 34
Grand Lake, Colorado 80447

The Inn on Falls River

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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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