Along with cool temperatures and colorful transitioning aspens, fall brings the start of the elk rut. Throughout Estes Park, residents can hear the echoing bugle of the elk signaling the mating season to the herd. Keep reading if you’re wondering where to find the elk bugling in Estes Park.

What is the Elk Rut?

elktober in Estes Park

Two strong young mature bull elks fighting on the top of a mountain meadow.

Beginning in late August, visitors flock to Estes Park for a chance to see the celebrated elk population in action. The elk journey from higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains down to the nearby valleys and meadows in search of food and a chance to mate.

In a show of superiority and physical dominance, the male bull elk let out a distinct call known as the elk bugle. The combination of a deep moan and high-pitched whistles can be heard echoing all along the Front Range region. The haunting sound serves as a locator to nearby herds, attracting female cows and posing a challenge to other male bull elk. The cows watch from nearby as the males size each other up. The lesser of the two bulls quickly retreats from a superior challenger. If evenly matched, an intense sparring contest begins. Each bull gives its all in hopes that the opposing male will retreat. When this doesn’t happen, it becomes a fight to the death. The last bull standing is deemed a worthy mate to the waiting cows to continue the herd’s lineage.

When is The Best Time to Hear Elk Bugling in Estes Park?

The best times to hear the elk bugling in Estes Park are early morning or late evening when they are most active. Some residents of Estes Valley are lucky to be able to enjoy the distinct calls right from their porches. If you don’t have that luxury, visit one of these spots to hear the unique bugle yourself. Be sure to bring binoculars just in case you have the chance to see the elk fighting for a mate to add to their harem.

Where to Find the Elk Bugling in Estes Park?

Downtown Estes Park

Due to the low elevation of Estes Valley, you can often hear the captivating bugle echoing throughout the mountain town. During peak season, visitors can spot the elk wandering down main shopping streets, locating the rest of their herd.

Estes Park Golf Courses

Even the elk of Estes Park love spending time on the green. The flat grassy land is prime real estate for wildlife viewing. Watch the elk let out a lazy howl as they munch on the manicured lawns of the golf course.

Elk at Rocky Mountain National Park

Visit Rocky Mountain National Park for more opportunities to hear the elk bugling. The alpine meadows are not only great for listening but also for viewing the elk in person.

  • Horseshoe Park
  • Moraine Park
  • Upper Beaver Meadows
  • Harbison Meadow
  • Holzworth Meadow

To limit disturbance and harassment of elk during rutting season, RMNP has put in place daily closures of these popular elk retreats.

Stay at Rocky Mountain Resorts

fawn valley inn

Fawn Valley Inn Unit 306

Don’t miss elk season in Estes Park! If you’re looking for where to find the elk bugling in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain Resorts is your vacation destination. Many guests staying at our cabins and vacation rentals can enjoy wildlife in Estes Park right from their window! Our vacation rentals are just minutes from the park’s entrance and offer beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery, all on a budget you can afford. Find the perfect Estes Park cabin to return to and review your photos after a day of wildlife watching in the park.