As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. This site also contains affiliate links to products besides Amazon and we may also receive a commission for purchases.

Did you know that Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing in the US? From elk and moose to wild turkeys and black bears, this stunning park is home to these animals and other species, too. But where are the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park?

The short answer is: wildlife can pop up just about anywhere in the park. You just have to be on the lookout!

With its majestic mountains, picturesque valleys, and abundant wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park is a must-visit destination for wildlife lovers. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best places to see wildlife as well as tips on how to observe these animals safely and responsibly.

Pack your binoculars, your telephoto lenses, and your patience. Let’s find the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park.

What Wildlife Can You See in Rocky Mountain National Park?

If you’re looking to experience the full beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park, then you’ll want to make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the amazing wildlife that calls it home.

From majestic elk and moose to wild turkeys and black bears, there is no shortage of wildlife to discover in this stunning landscape. Taking time to spot animals in their natural habitat is a great way to get closer to nature and appreciate the wonders of this area.

When observing any wildlife, it’s important to remember that these animals are wild and potentially dangerous creatures so always maintain a safe distance away from them. This is their habitat and you are just a visitor.

If you have any questions about safety or need assistance in spotting animals, be sure to reach out to park rangers for guidance!


Elk, part of the deer family, are found throughout the park and can often be seen grazing in meadows and valleys. You can also find them in higher elevation areas during summer months when food sources begin to deplete.

The best places to spot these majestic antlered mammals are along Trail Ridge Road and the Moraine Park area along Bear Lake Road, both offering wide open spaces that provide great opportunities for wildlife viewing.

A large herd of elk with over 100 members grazes in the distance in an alpine meadow along Trail Ridge Road, one of the best spots to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park.
We watched as a large herd of elk exits the treeline to graze in an alpine meadow along Trail Ridge Road.

One of the most exciting times to observe wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park is during the fall, specifically during the elk rut season. During this time, bull elk are in full mating mode, and the males can be heard bugling and seen posturing to attract females.

Visitors can witness the impressive displays of dominance as the bulls clash antlers in competition for mates. The elk herds typically migrate back down to lower elevations, especially in and around Estes Park, during this time.

Be sure to keep a safe distance and follow park regulations to avoid disturbing the elk during this critical time.


Moose are the largest members of the deer family, and they can be found in Rocky Mountain National Park! These majestic creatures often weigh up to 1,200 pounds and stand as high as six feet at the shoulder.

One female moose stands in Sheep Lake feeding on vegetation.
We saw a female moose feeding in Sheep Lake during the summer.

The best time to also see moose is during autumn when their breeding season (or rut) is taking place. During this time, they’ll be more active and easier to spot. However, it’s important to keep a safe distance from them while viewing as they can become quite dangerous if provoked, charging at what they view as a threat.

Binoculars or spotting scopes are great tools for observing these amazing animals without getting too close.

Mule Deer

Mule deer are one of the most common animals to find in Rocky Mountain National Park. These incredible creatures, famous for their large ears, provide a wonderful opportunity for visitors to observe a smaller member of the deer family.

If you’re looking for a chance to spot mule deer, you don’t have to venture too far! They often linger near main roads and the Beaver Meadows Entrance on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

We spotted this male mule deer grazing in the green meadows along Bear Lake Road.

The best time to see them is during the summer months when temperatures are warmer and they are more active.

For photography enthusiasts, mule deer can make for great subjects as they move gracefully around the park’s miles of trails and lush terrain. Whether you’re looking for an opportunity to photograph or simply observe these majestic creatures, taking a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park will definitely give you your chance.

Bighorn sheep

Bighorn sheep are some of the most majestic but also elusive animals to be found in Rocky Mountain National Park.

These incredible creatures have a unique ability to climb up steep terrain using their flexible sponge-like hooves, and both females and males have horns – with the male rams having larger more curved horns.

You can find them high up in the Mummy Range where most visitors will never see them during much of the year. During late spring, often during the month of May, the sheep come down to lower elevations for nutrients in the mud.

To spot them you can take a drive along Fall River Road to the Sheep Lakes for some of the best views. There is very limited time to view the bighorn sheep compared to other wildlife, so don’t come to the park expecting to see them all over.

We haven’t had the opportunity to spot bighorn sheep at Rocky Mountain National Park, but hopefully, you will have better luck than we did!

Whether you’re lucky enough to come across one or even a herd of bighorn sheep, remember that they are wild animals and respect their space at all times. Too much human disturbance can cause these animals significant stress.

Marmots and Pikas

If you’re looking for some of the cutest creatures in Rocky Mountain National Park, look low on the ground for marmots and pikas! These two species are related and share similar characteristics, so let’s take a closer look.

A small marmot suns on a large boulder
We watched this marmot and a couple of others sunning on these boulders below an overlook on Trail Ridge Road.

Marmots are rodents that can weigh up to around 10 pounds and measure up to 24 inches long. They have short legs and furry coats of gray or reddish brown. Marmots live in burrows near alpine meadows where they feed on grasses, flowers, fruits, and insects. During the summer months, they can often be seen sunning themselves on rocks or perched atop boulders.

Pikas are smaller relatives that resemble hamsters with their round ears and stubby tails. They’re only about 6-8 inches long and weigh less than half a pound! In the summer months, pikas venture out of their rock crevices to graze on grasses and herbs while making chirping noises as they go. They don’t hibernate, though!

We spotted pikas scurrying among the rocky spots near Timberline Falls on the way up to Sky Pond.

So if you’re wandering around Rocky Mountain National Park this summer keep an eye out for these adorable critters!

A small pika scampers between the rocks just before Timberline Falls.
We spotted this little pika along the rocky ridge just before Timberline Falls on the way to Sky Pond.

Snowshoe Hares

Spotting snowshoe hares in Rocky Mountain National Park is a unique and rewarding wildlife experience. These small, fluffy hares with large hind feet are perfectly adapted to the snowy environment in which they live.

Hikers exploring the wooded areas of the park, especially near the treeline, might catch a quick glimpse of a snowshoe hare scurrying across the trail.

A snowshoe hare scampers behind a boulder along the Glacier Gorge Trail.
We caught this snowshoe hare scampering behind a large rock along the Glacier Gorge Trail

Despite their camouflage, these creatures are known to be quite curious, and patient visitors may be rewarded with the rare opportunity to watch them forage or groom themselves.

While these hares are primarily active at night, it’s still possible to see snowshoe rabbits during the day, but you might be more lucky to spot one just around dawn or dusk.

Wild Turkeys

If you’re visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, make sure to look out for wild turkeys! You can often find them near the Fall River Road entrance and along the roadway on Bear Lake Road. They’re most active at dusk and dawn, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled as you’re driving in and out of the park!

Wild turkeys have round bodies and prefer running to flying, so if you see one strutting along Bear Lake Road then it’s a pretty special sighting!

These 2 wild turkeys search for food along Bear Lake Road, which we spotted on an early morning drive.

Adult turkeys can weigh between 14-22 pounds when they’re fully grown, so don’t be surprised if you spot a giant tom strutting his stuff.


If you’re headed to Rocky Mountain National Park, keep an eye out for the fascinating feathered friends that call it home. With over 270 species of birds spotted over the last century, RMNP is a bird-watchers paradise!

Bird in a pine tree in Rocky Mountain National park
This little guy posed nicely for a photo while sitting in a pine tree.

The park is teeming with eagles and hawks, along with many other winged wonders like woodpeckers, owls, and beautiful hummingbirds. You might even find some unusual species such as white-tailed ptarmigan or bald eagles.

Wherever you are in the park, be sure to take a few minutes to enjoy its avian population. Take a stroll along one of its miles of trails or grab your binoculars and head up Trail Ridge Road for some spectacular views and plenty of feathered activity (just remember not to disturb any nesting areas).

Whether you’re an experienced birder or just starting out, you’re sure to spot beautiful, colorful birds in Rocky Mountain National Park.

This bird was curious about our picnic lunch enjoyed at Mills Lake. It is important to not feed the wildlife in RMNP, no matter what type of animal it is.

Black Bears

Black bears are one of the most iconic species at Rocky Mountain National Park. These majestic animals are an important part of the park’s ecosystem and can be found in many different areas, from meadows to forests.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a black bear while exploring the park, make sure to keep your distance! While they may look cute and cuddly, black bears are powerful predators and should always be respected from a safe distance. 

In addition, it’s important to secure all food items when you’re out in bear country – anything from snacks to cooking equipment should be safely stowed away in a bear-resistant container. Black bears are attracted to anything they can find that smells appetizing and will travel for miles to the smell of food!

Other Animals to Look For

From majestic elk to cheerful marmots, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to a plethora of wildlife. If you’re on the lookout for some furry friends, here are some other animals you might spot while exploring:

A chipmunk enjoys a seed on a rock along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.
We watched this little chipmunk enjoy a snack at one of the overlooks along Trail Ridge Road.

Beavers, coyotes, squirrels, and chipmunks are among the smaller critters found throughout the park. 

Fish, frogs, and toads may be seen in and around the lakes and waterways.

Small snakes sometimes slither across the grassy trails.

The Best Places to See Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re looking for the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ve come to the right place! From elk to beavers, marmots to eagles, the park is home to a wide range of incredible animals.

Whether you’re a birdwatcher or an amateur photographer, here are some of our top picks for spotting wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park:

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most popular spots for seeing elk. In the summer months, they often graze in the alpine meadows along this scenic route. 

Trail Ridge Road is one of the most iconic routes in Rocky Mountain National Park and is a must-see for wildlife lovers. The route offers stunning views of snow-capped peaks and valleys that stretch out into the horizon.

Male elk congregate in an alpine meadow along Trail Ridge Road, one of the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park.
We spotted these elk in a large herd along Trail Ridge Road on an evening drive through the park.

As you make your way along this scenic route, keep an eye out for elk grazing in the meadows – they can often be spotted here during the summer months.

As you drive along the scenic roadway, pull off at the viewpoints along the way. We’ve seen marmots peaking in and out of boulders, as well as some of the other small mammals scampering just below the overlooks.

Horseshoe Park + Upper Beaver Meadows

Horseshoe Park and Upper Beaver Meadows are both often overlooked destinations in Rocky Mountain National Park’s east side. Located in the eastern section of the park, these areas are easier to access from the Estes Park side versus Grand Lake.

These wide-open meadows offer grazing opportunities for the park’s deer species.

In addition to wide meadows that attract elk, especially during their rutting season – usually mid-September through October – Horseshoe Park and Upper Beaver Meadows are also great spots for any wildlife lover.

Keep an eye out for black bears, mule deer, wild turkeys, and more as you explore miles of trails throughout these picturesque spots on opposite sides of Deer Mountain. 

Kawuneeche Valley and Harbison Meadow

Located on the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Kawuneeche Valley is a great spot with the possibility of moose viewing.

Kawuneeche Valley is especially popular among visitors during the warmer months between late spring and early fall. During this time, you can take advantage of the valley’s many trails and open spaces that offer spectacular views of wildflowers and other wildlife.

If you plan on visiting during the winter months be sure to check with park rangers as some areas may be closed due to harsh weather conditions.

Holzwarth Meadow

Holzwarth Meadow is one of the most beautiful areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. Located in the western section of the park, this meadow is a wildlife-watching paradise! Keep your eyes peeled for elk, mule deer, and even black bears or moose.

A stream runs through Holzwarth Meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Holzwarth Meadow is full of lush green grass and a beautiful shallow stream in the summer, perfect for wildlife.

Early morning and evening hours are especially popular moose-spotting times to view these majestic creatures in their natural habitat as they come out to graze on lush grass and enjoy some peace and quiet.

While you’re there, take a walk back to the Holzwarth Historic Site, where you can learn about what it was like to live in this homestead over 100 years ago. Why not learn a little more about the history of the area while you visit?

Nature photographers will also find plenty of opportunities here. Set up your tripod and be ready for some unforgettable shots!

Along Bear Lake Road

Bear Lake Road is one of the most popular places to visit in Rocky Mountain National Park, and it’s easy to see why! This scenic drive is teeming with wildlife in addition to the many spectacular hikes accessed along the road.

Whether you’re heading to stroll around Bear Lake or hike to an alpine view like Lake Haiyaha, wildlife may greet you along the way.

An elk enjoys the green grass along Bear Lake Road.
This elk was enjoying his breakfast right along the roadway on our first visit down Bear Lake Road.

As you wind your way through this park, keep your eyes peeled for mule deer, elk, and even wild turkeys. We saw all three in one morning along Bear Lake Road. Don’t expect to be lucky enough to see all three in one trip, but it’s certainly possible if you keep your eyes peeled.

The best time to view these majestic creatures is early morning or late evening when they are out grazing in their natural habitat, like Moraine Park or other meadow areas.

Alberta Falls Trail

The Alberta Falls Trail is a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts in Rocky Mountain National Park. This gorgeous trail boasts stunning views of the lush forest, alpine meadows, and icy streams. As you stroll along the path, keep an eye out for the many species of birds that call this area home.

It’s also possible to spot deer families grazing near the trail, snowshoe hares hopping through, as well as pikas scurrying through the underbrush.

Mountain goats have been seen along the trail to Alberta Falls, as well, but these species are not native to Rocky Mountain National Park or Colorado. Efforts have been taken by the park to remove mountain goats because they can compete with and harm native bighorn sheep.

For those looking to take a break from their hike, nearby Alberta Falls provides a magical backdrop for photos or just a chance to relax by its gushing waters.

Whether you’re searching for spectacular photo ops or an up-close encounter with nature – Alberta Falls Trail has something special in store for you!

Sprague Lake

Sprague Lake is one of the most stunning sites in Rocky Mountain National Park. Set amidst a backdrop of snow-capped peaks and evergreen forests, this breathtaking lake is a must-see for all visitors to the park.

It’s also an ideal spot for wildlife watching – there’s a chance of spotting black bears, mule deer, wild turkeys, and even moose if you’re lucky! This is one of the better spots on the east side of the park to spot a moose.

A visit to Sprague Lake for sunrise is especially beautiful and provides a great opportunity to observe wildlife enjoying their morning breakfast.

Sheep Lakes

Sheep Lakes is one of the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park. A short drive from the Fall River Entrance, this picturesque area is great for possibly viewing herds of bighorn sheep that roam its steep mountainous terrain.

From May to early June, you can sometimes observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat taking in the muddy nutrients in the soil around Sheep Lakes.

This female moose was enjoying a midmorning snack in Sheep Lake.

At Sheep Lakes, you’ll find a viewing area for the lakes with parking just off of Fall River Road. Sheep often cross the road in the springtime, so pay attention to the park staff directing traffic during this time of year. They are only there to protect the animals.

Moose can sometimes be seen wading and feeding in the lake, as well. Be sure to bring your binoculars for better views at Sheep Lake. 

Tips for Seeing Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, you’re in for a treat! The park is home to an array of wildlife and there are plenty of ways to get great views. Here are some tips for seeing wildlife in the park:

1. Get off the beaten path

Many people stick to popular established trails and roads when exploring the park, but it pays off to explore further afield.

You’ll find that many species tend to be more active away from the hustle and bustle of crowded trails.

We’re not suggesting going off trail, but sometimes venturing to less popular trails can provide more opportunities.

2. Don’t forget about water sources

Lakes like Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Sprague Lake, and Lake Estes right in town are excellent spots for spotting animals such as ducks, geese, beavers, and sometimes even black bears!

Just remember to keep your distance if you do happen upon a bear – they’re dangerous animals after all!

An elk enjoys green grass above Dream Lake.
This elk was enjoying the green grass on the hillside opposite Dream Lake while we hiked.

3. Bring Telephoto Lenses or Binoculars

Bringing a telephoto lens or binoculars is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with wildlife when visiting Rocky Mountain National Park while staying at a safe distance.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer looking for the perfect shot or just someone who loves to watch animals in their natural habitat, having a telephoto lens or binoculars is the best way to see the detailed behaviors of wildlife in and around the park.

With this gear, you can view animals from far away without disturbing them. Focusing on a single animal from afar allows you to see it in much more detail than if it were nearby. With the right lens, you can capture stunning images of moose, elk, and mule deer, among other species in their natural environment.

All of the photos on this page were taken by us with telephoto lenses during our visits to Rocky Mountain National Park.

4. Keep Distance

When visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, it’s important to keep a safe distance from the wildlife you may encounter. While these animals may be fascinating and beautiful to observe, they are still wild creatures and should be treated with respect.

The minimum recommended distance for observing species like bighorn sheep and elk is 75 feet, while moose, black bears, and mountain lions require more distance and should be observed from 120 feet. If an animal begins to approach you, back away slowly.

It’s also important to avoid crowding around animals or attempting to feed them—both of these can cause them stress or even put them in danger.

It’s always a good reminder that while we may find the wild animals of Rocky Mountain National Park captivating, they are not tame and must be respected as such. By following these simple rules of etiquette, we can ensure that our visits are enjoyable for both us and the wildlife.

Small elk approaching a car in a parking lot along Trail Ridge Road.
An elk approaches a car parked in a parking lot along Trail Ridge Road. Just because they approach you, doesn’t mean you should interact. Slowly back away.

5. Be Quiet

The great thing about wildlife is that many species are just as curious about us as we are of them. That being said, it’s important to remember that the animals in Rocky Mountain National Park have adapted to a quiet and serene environment—so it’s best to remain quiet while observing them.

When you’re out exploring the park, keep your voice down and avoid shouting.

It’s also important not to play loud music —the noise from it can really disturb the wildlife, and as a result, they can alter their behaviors. Sometimes, these behavior changes negatively affect the species. Remember that animals rely on their senses for survival and any loud noises could potentially scare them away from areas they know for feeding or safety.

As a general rule, if the animal you are viewing notices you, you are too close or being too loud.

6. No Feeding Wild Animals

No matter how tempting it may be, it is always a bad idea to feed the wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park. Not only is it illegal, but it can also be very dangerous for both you and the animal.

When animals become accustomed to being fed by humans, they lose their natural fear of us and can become aggressive as they search for more food. This can lead to serious injuries or even death for both the animal and the next humans who encounter the animal. In some cases, park rangers may even have to euthanize an animal that has become too habituated to humans.

Feeding wild animals also messes up their natural diets and behaviors—they stop foraging for their own food, which disrupts their ability to survive in the wild. Even leaving out scraps of food or waste could attract animals and put them in danger.

The best way to enjoy the wildlife of Rocky Mountain National Park is from a safe distance with binoculars or your camera lens. That way you get a closer look without putting them at risk!

2 marmots sit on large rocks enjoying views of the valley below.
Two small mammals enjoy the view along the Alpine Ridge Trail.

What Are the Rarest Animals to See in Rocky Mountain National Park?

The Canada Lynx, Mexican Spotted Owl, and the North American Wolverine all find great habitats suitable for them to live in Rocky Mountain National Park but are threatened.

Native to Canada and Alaska, the Canada Lynx were released in Colorado to increase their numbers as they are a threatened species. These cats are comparable in size to a bobcat but have larger feet, and their ears sport black tufts of fur.

Mexican Spotted Owls are a beautiful and rare species of bird found in Rocky Mountain National Park. These owls are known for their unique appearance with dark-colored feathers, spotted white markings, and large eyes. Unfortunately, they are currently listed as threatened due to habitat loss and other pressures on their populations.

What is the Best Time of Year to See Wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Wildlife can be seen throughout the year in Rocky Mountain National Park, but some times are better than others. The summer months are the best time of year to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park with warmer temperatures and longer days.

Some animals venture down from higher elevations to take advantage of the abundant food sources available at lower altitudes. The elk herds, however, migrate up to take advantage of the vast alpine meadows.

The spring is also a great time for wildlife viewing as it marks the birthing season, meaning you have the opportunity to spot elk, moose, or mule deer with their calves.

If you’re looking for a specific type of animal, be sure to explore different parts of the park. Trail Ridge Road runs through some of the most spectacular high mountain scenery in the area and is a great place to look for marmots and pika.

Fall is a great time to see the deer species, including elk, moose, and mule deer, in the rut. Listen for the elk bugling across the meadows. Watch for them strutting their stuff to attract a mate.

If you’re looking for some incredible wildlife-watching opportunities this summer, Rocky Mountain National Park should be high on your list.

9 elk enjoy the early morning sun in a rocky alpine meadow
A herd of elk, both mothers and young, enjoy the early morning sun in an alpine meadow

Rocky Mountain National Park is a haven not only for hikers, bikers, and climbers but also for wildlife enthusiasts. With so many different species of animals to see, it’s hard to know where to start.

However, by visiting the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll increase your chances of spotting some incredible creatures. Whether you’re interested in elk, bighorn sheep, or black bears, they all call this stunning national park home.

So grab your binoculars, pack a picnic, and keep your eyes peeled while you visit the best places to see wildlife in Rocky Mountain National Park.