Rocky Mountain States
I am definitely biased, having spent most my time in the states of the Rocky Mountains but I have to say these states are some of my favorites to visit. Endless adventure is to be found in the region, and the states have very different ecological systems, making them accessible year round.
The Rocky Mountains region is made up of six states:
Know Before You Visit
The regions of the Rocky Mountains sees tourism all year long, and when you will want to go depends on what you want to do while on your trip. For the mountainous parts of this region, the best times to go are: summer, from mid-June to mid-September, and winter, from mid-December to mid-March. Between winter and summer is the season known as ‘mud season’ to the locals. While you’ll still find yourself able to do things outdoors, some of your adventures may restrict you to the foothills in a lot of these areas.
Coming in the fall may restrict a lot of activities, the snow pack won’t be deep enough to allow skiing, but there will be enough of it that hiking around won’t be as easy. However, the fall season is a great time to come if you want to see some spectacular color and visit the mountain towns.
If you are looking to visit the desert, the best times to go are: spring, from mid-March to mid-June, and fall, from mid-September to mid-November. The desert still sees some snow and can get quite cold in the winter. In the summer, temperatures average well into the triple digits, so it is best to avoid the desert during these seasons.
How to Get Around the Rocky Mountains
Once you fly into the airport, getting around by public transportation is very difficult in these states. I’d recommend renting a car, or an RV, to travel around, especially for longer trips.
Each of these states are vast and require quite a bit of travel to get from place to place. Some you could spend eight hours driving on mostly highways and still be in the same state. Plan on being in the car a decent amount to be able to see a lot of the states.
If you are driving in the winter, you will need a car with AWD, 4WD, or chains due to traction laws that come on during snow storms.
The biggest airports for this region are DIA in Denver, Colorado, SLC in Salt Lake City, Utah, and LAS, in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can certainly fly into other airports in the region though. The smaller ones tend to be more expensive, but depending how many are traveling, it might be better to fly into a smaller airport than renting a car and driving.
Top Cities to Visit in the Rocky Mountains
Las Vegas, Nevada – As far as places to party in the Rocky Mountain region, this is it. Las Vegas is also very close to some of the best climbing in the state as well. Red Rocks is located just outside the city and offers climbing for every skill level.
Denver, Colorado – A great place to visit in the summer for the music scene and micro-brewery lifestyle, Denver also is known as the gateway to the Rockies. There is stuff to do year round, from skiing to climbing to mountain biking to backpacking, so you are sure to never get bored.
Moab, Utah – A small desert town that is world famous, people fly from all over to hike in two national parks, climb at Indian Creek, and mountain bike down the slick rock trails.
Top Outdoor Adventures in the Rocky Mountains
You don’t come to the Rocky Mountains for the night life, with the exception of a couple cities. Here it is all about the exploring the outdoors.
- Hiking – Each of these states offers some incredible hiking. For desert hikes, head to Utah or Nevada. For those looking hike in the mountains, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho all have amazing ranges.
- Backpacking – From short overnights to six month adventures on the Continental Divide Trail, you’ll be able to find a trail for everyone in your group.
- Climbing – What kind of climbing do you want? Looking for some high alpine multi pitch, head to Colorado. Want some desert crack? Head to Indian Creek. Looking for world class bouldering, hit Joe’s Valley. Options are endless.
- Mountain Biking – You’ll be sure to be amazed by the trail system in Moab that crawls along slickrock. Or hit some of the downhill parks at ski resorts across the region in the summer! And hit Colorado to bike pack the entire Colorado Trail if one day isn’t enough.
- Skiing/Snowboarding – You can’t go wrong any of these states for skiing. If you want to ski extreme terrain, head to Jackson Hole. For amazing powder, go to Alta/Snowbird. And to experience the glamorous life, go to Aspen. Of course, there is so much backcountry skiing in every state too, so you’ll be happy wherever you end up.
- Mountaineering – You can find some great mountains to climb in any of these states. Head to Wyoming and Montana to find some amazing winter summits, or climb a 14er or two, or 54 in Colorado.
- Canyoneering – Some of the best slot canyons in the world exist in the deserts of Utah, unknown to many people. Go with friends who know what they are doing, or hire a guide
- White Water Sports – While large bodies of water may be lacking in most parts of this area, the Rocky Mountain region has a lot to do on the rivers. Some are easy enough to tube down, but some are serious, multi-day adventures on the water.
- Road Biking – With all the passes in the region, you will definitely workout your lungs. Bikepack the desert highways in Utah, or bike from town to town in Colorado.
- Caving – There many not be as many caves in this region as other, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Head to the lava beds in Idaho for some caving or take a tour in Nevada.
National Parks in the Rocky Mountains
There are 13 national parks in the Rocky Mountains region and a lot to explore within them.
- Glacier – Located in Montana, Glacier NP is known for great backpacking and hiking among its stunning glacier fed lakes, and the chance to see a grizzly bear or two.
- Yellowstone – One of two parks in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is home to some amazing geothermal activity. Hike around to see geysers, brilliant colored pools, and a lot of wildlife.
- Grand Teton – The other national park in Wyoming, Grand Teton has incredible alpine climbing for those wanting to stand on top of highest points for miles.
- Great Basin – Nevada’s only national park, this is a great place to go for star gazers and cave dwellers alike. Take a tour of the caves, camp beneath the stars, and hike among the oldest living organisms on Earth.
- Zion – One of five national parks in Utah, Zion is known for its adventures down some spectacular slow canyons along with hikes that go high above canyon floors.
- Capitol Reef – Those who love geology will love Capitol Reef, with its strange rock formations. It great for hiking and is part of the Internal Dark Sky Parks. Capitol Reef is in Utah.
- Bryce Canyon – Another one for geologists, Bryce Canyon located in Utah, is famous for its hiking around the natural rock formations deep in the canyon.
- Arches – Another Utah national park, Arches is aptly named for the sandstone arches found all over the park. These is a lot of hiking and canyoneering to be found in the park.
- Canyonlands – Located in Utah, close to Arches, Canyonlands National Park is great for those wanting to bike pack the White Rim trail, or raft down the Green River.
- Mesa Verde – An archaeologist’s and history buff’s delight, Mesa Verde, in Colorado, is home to elaborate cliff dwellings that the ancient Puebloans built and then vanished from hundreds of years ago.
- Great Sand Dunes – Pick up a board and hit the slopes. Great Sand Dunes in Colorado holds the largest sand dunes in the country. Backpack into the dunes or sandboard, like a snowboard, down!
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison – Another Colorado national park, Black Canyon is more than just a big hole in the ground. It is known for amazing kayaking, climbing, and fishing.
- Rocky Mountain – Colorado’s most famous park, Rocky Mountain National Park is known for its towering peaks. Hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing are all popular in the park.