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Is the end of Sept to late?

Hannibal, Missouri
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Is the end of Sept to late?

Taking a family vacation Sept 27- Oct 3 and was wondering if that's too late in the year to drive the mountains before snow moves in for the year. Thanks.

Windsor, Colorado
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for Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
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1. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

From mid-September to mid-October is the peak of elk rut in Estes Park and RMNP. Most years there will still be really nice fall foliage at the lower elevations in RMNP and even along the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway. The combination of elk rut, fall foliage, bluebird skies, sunny warm days and cool nights brings plenty of people to Estes Park and RMNP especially on September weekends. In 2012, September 29 was the highest attendance day for the entire year in RMNP. The weather is usually perfect for hiking or any other outdoor activity. You will not be too late. In fact, Elk Fest in Estes Park is not until October 4 and 5 this year.

Yes, by late September snow can fall at higher elevations. Trail Ridge Road may have some delayed openings or temporary closures due to snow. The average "official" closing date for Trail Ridge Road as a through road between Estes Park and Grand Lake is October 23 with the "actual" average closing date a few days before that. The park tries to keep the Alpine Visitor Center at @11,800 ft. on Trail Ridge Road open at least through Columbus Day (second Monday in October). It is weather dependent.

Hannibal, Missouri
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2. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

Thanks for the info! You say that's the highest day for park attendance, what's some of the slower times? I know I'm never going to get the place to myself but if there is slower times during the week when the weather is good I could adjust me vacation time. Thanks again.

Sedona, Arizona
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3. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

We have a condo in estes and have specifically gone the past few years to see fall foliage, however last sept. Was the exception due to the floods. Our experience is that peak time is really no later than the third week in sept.

It seems if you go during your time frame, you will still see a lot of yellow aspens, but will be hitting the tail end.

There is a chance trail ridge could be open, but only if the snow holds off. Also, check when the hotel rates drop, usually it straddles end of sept/ beginning of oct.

Windsor, Colorado
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4. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

Facts and history show that Mark090702 is not exactly correct when he says "There is a chance trail ridge could be open, but only if the snow holds off" for a late September very early October visit. Based on the official closing dates of Trail Ridge Road for the last 10 years, chances are excellent that someone visiting RMNP in late September and very early October will be able to drive Trail Ridge Road in its entirety at some point during their visit.

From the official RMNP website, here are the facts regarding Trail Ridge Road closure dates.

"The average winter closure dates for Trail Ridge Road have been October 23. Although often times the road closes earlier and does not reopen, the previous ten year's official closure dates are: October 17, 2012, October 27, 2011, October 29, 2010, October 21, 2009, November 6, 2008, October 22, 2007, October 23, 2006, November 4, 2005, October 25, 2004, and November 6, 2003."

As I said in my reply #1, the "actual" closing date of Trail Ridge Road can be a few days before the "official" closing date. This is because rangers will take several days to assess whether or not Trail Ridge Road can be reopened before officially closing it.

Jimmy V, to address your question about slower times in September to visit - during the week as opposed to weekends in September, Estes Park and RMNP are not as busy. Avoid Labor Day weekend and the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival which is September 4-7 this year. The reason Saturday, September 29, 2012 was so popular was 1) it was National Public Lands Day and a free entrance day to RMNP, 2) it was during Elk Fest in Estes Park and 3) the fall foliage was still great in RMNP. On the Colorado forum, we keep a running thread in the fall on the status of fall color around the state. Here is my post from September 28, 2012 regarding RMNP.

"Just got back from RMNP today and there is still great color in the park. Peak to Peak is waning some but is certainly worth the trip."

Saturday, September 27, 2014 is National Public Lands Day and will be a free day in RMNP. I would expect that day to be very busy but people will head home by late Sunday afternoon. Except for 9/27, the timing of your trip should be fine. If you change the time of your trip to after the Highland Festival but before September 20, you will see fewer people because that is before the best elk viewing and leaf peeping.

I also own vacation property in Estes Park plus I live only about an hour from RMNP. When you live in Colorado, people like to visit you. I am usually in RMNP about 20 times a year in all seasons. After vacationing in RMNP and other parts of Colorado for over 20 years, I moved to Colorado and intentionally chose to live close to RMNP.

Largo, Florida
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5. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

Since this person is going near the same time as I am (Oct 4 -Oct 11), I figured that I will ask a question here because it could help them also.. Does it rain a lot at that time of the year?

Windsor, Colorado
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6. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

cbressler1976 - No, early October is usually very dry. You have a better chance of snow than rain and neither is that likely but can happen. As I explained on one of your earlier posts, you need to check weather before you come and bring layers. The later into October you travel to RMNP, the more unpredictable and changeable the weather will be.

Denver, CO
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7. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

Shhhh! Don't tell anyone but late September is the best time to visit. October can be fun too.

September is usually a stable month weather wise. Aspens in full glory, dustings of snow on the higher peaks, warm/comfortable days and cool nights, elk rut and a little less crowds than the summer. Our home is rented most of the summer so I don't get to use it until September but I don't mind since it is my favorite time to visit.

Fv1989 - love your data. That info on closing dates is pretty neat.

Illinois
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8. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

fv1989,

Is the Scotfest always the first week of Sept. or the weekend after labor day? I couldn't find the 2015 dates. We are planning on visiting Estes Sept 10-13, 2015 but not if that fest is going on.

Thanks

Chilidog

Windsor, Colorado
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9. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

chilidog11, the Longs Peak Scottish Irish Highland Festival is always the first weekend after Labor Day - Thursday - Sunday and you have the dates correct. It will be September 10-13, 2015. In 2015, the August 28 -September 3 timeframe should be a good time to visit - after kids are in school and before Labor Day weekend.

Illinois
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10. Re: Is the end of Sept to late?

Thanks for the info.

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