How much time do you have? In winter, try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snowboarding, wildlife-viewing (coyote, elk, bighorn sheep and the occasional mountain lion and bear), ice-fishing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding (feel free to call out “Mush!”), horse-riding or a moonlit sleigh-ride through the Colorado back-country.
There is no downhill skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park itself: for that you must drive to Eldora, 95km from Estes Park, or to the well-known resorts of Colorado. Among the most family-friendly is Winter Park Resort, the nearest resort to Denver airport. Colorado’s big name, however, is Vail, together with its posh sister resort Beaver Creek. Note that within resorts, lift-tickets vary greatly in price, so it’s worth looking around for the best packages and deals.
In mild weather (typically mid-June–Sept), there’s hiking (on your own or on naturalist-led tours), biking, birding, guided nature walks, horse-riding, fly-fishing, golf, tennis, mountain-tubing, swimming in indoor aquatic centres, and cave tours (Glenwood Springs) – surely enough for several family holidays in one?!
Free shuttles operate within the park. Note that Trail Ridge Road, which runs through the park from Estes Park (eastern entrance) to Grand Lake (south-west), is closed in winter. For orientation and information, head to one of the nine visitor centres (four of them open year-round) – one, the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Ask about ranger-led children’s and family programs year-round.