Winter Wildlife Watching

12/20/2017 | by Lyles Armour | Estes Park Local Area

Though you might not run into as many crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park this time of year the park is still filled with wildlife and you’ll want to keep a lookout for them as you explore Estes Park in the winter.

What you’ll see

Though our yellow-bellied marmots and black bears hibernate and the hummingbirds migrate, there is wildlife that stays on the move in the winter. Keep a lookout for the following animals that are still active within the park:

  • Coyotes
  • Pikas
  • Birds – such as wild turkeys, hawks, falcons, woodpeckers, and pygmy owls
  • Elk – the elk will move down in elevation and can often be seen close to or even in town during the winter
  • Chipmunks – on the trails, you might see a chipmunk coming out of its semi-hibernating state to feed on its food stores
  • Moose – you might be lucky and catch sight of a bull moose or a cow

How to see

Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter is a great way to escape the crowds and enjoy its majesty all covered in snow. Here are a few ways you can explore the park and check out our wildlife.

  • Hike/snowshoe: Hit the trails to see the animals in their natural habitat as you enjoy the panoramic vistas with snow-capped mountains, frozen waterfalls, and beautiful trees.
  • Take a tour: Join a ranger-led program through the park or take a tour with a smaller, local outfit to learn more about the park and let someone else do the navigating.
  • Scenic drive: Take a drive through the park along Bear Lake Road or Fall River Road to catch sight of our wildlife. Just be sure to pull over off the road completely if you see a herd of elk or other animals to not block the road for other park visitors.

Tips for watching:

  • Know where to go: Moraine Park, Bear Lake Road, Devil’s Gulch, and in town around Lake Estes are hot spots for wildlife watching.
  • Know when to go: Animals are more active at dawn or dusk.
  • Keep a distance: Park rules state that you need to keep at least 75 ft. of distance between you and our wildlife, especially with mothers and their young, and up to 120 ft. for bigger animals like bears and moose.
  • Do not feed: Feeding the animals is illegal in national parks and beyond the legal consequences, feeding them makes them dependent on humans and lose their sense of fear of humans and can become more aggressive or need to be put down.

Many guests staying at our cabins and vacation rentals at Rocky Mountain Resorts have had the fortune of just looking out their window to see some of our wildlife right in their front yard!  Find the perfect Estes Park cabin to return to and review your photos after a day of wildlife watching in the park.

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