Weather – Because of the proximity of the mountains, the weather can change dramatically without notice. No matter what type of year you visit, you should always bring several layers of clothing. Even in summer, if you go into the Rocky Mountain National Park, you will find snow at the higher elevations. I remember my brother visiting from Pennsylvania several years ago in July. We traveled up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center at the Continental Divide. He wore shorts and sandals. He had to climb over 4 foot deep snow during the hike. During the summer, it is usually in the 70s or 80s during the day. However, it gets into the low 50s at night. Up at the continental divide, there will be snow all summer and temperatures will regularly be in the 40s with strong wind. During the winter, it can get very windy and cold in Estes. We will only have a dozen or so days below zero. However, the sun can quickly warm the soil and melt the snow. In Estes, we only have ½ the snow they have in the lower valley in places like Loveland and Fort Collins. However, due to the wind, this snow can be redistributed for several weeks. Occasionally, we can have deep snow. In the last 10 years, the deepest snow we have had at one time was 40 inches in May. It took about a week to melt and made the soil very muddy. During the spring and fall the weather can change dramatically. It is not unusual to have 50 to 70 degree temperature change in 24 hours. Again, no matter when you visit, think layers of clothing and be prepared if you go to higher elevations for snow and hail any time of the year.
Elevation – Elevation is one of the factors that few people think about, but everyone should. At higher elevations you need to drink more fluids. If you immediately come from sea level to Estes Park at 8,000 feet, you might feel like you have the flu for a couple of days. This includes headaches and feeling sick. It is recommended that you spend a day or two in Estes relaxing before doing anything strenuous. Also remember to drink lots of fluids. Not necessarily alcohol. Many people that drink alcohol find that they feel drunk after only a single drink at this elevation. Every year, many people are taken by ambulance to lower elevations to adjust to the elevation changes. So remember, drink lots of water, be careful drinking alcohol, and take the time to adjust to the elevation before doing anything strenuous.
Animals – Many people arrive in Estes and are worried about the threat of animals. In most situations, this is greatly exaggerated. The highest risk is during the fall when people get too close to the Elk or Deer. During the rutting season, which is September and October, these animals can be unpredictable. It is best to keep your distance and be sure you don’t find yourself between a mother and her babies. Most people worry more about bears. However, it is unlikely you will see a bear and even if you do, they don’t want anything to do with humans. We only have black bears that prefer roots and berries. They are relatively shy. The biggest mistake is leaving foot outside or in your car. Bears are notorious for opening doors of cars and searching for food. You should always leave your car door locked. The worst thing that could happen is a bear gets into your car and the door closes. Unable to exit the car, they will destroy the interior of your car.
Lightning – Lightning kills more people each year than all of the animals combined. As you go to higher elevations, lightning becomes a bigger threat. If there is a lightning storm, move to lower elevations quickly. Take this seriously. It really can kill you.
Ticks and Insects – There are much fewer insects in Estes Park than lower elevations. During the spring we have a couple week of ticks. Beware, we do have Rocky Mountain Tick Fever that is carried by ticks. If you are visiting in March or April, be sure to have bug spray with DEET to discourage these creatures. In the fall, we often have a couple weeks of yellow jackets that enjoy a good barbeque. If you are outside barbequing in September, it is likely you will see some of these local wasps. They usually don’t care about you, only your food. However, they can be annoying.
Snakes – In 40 years, I’ve never seen a snake in Estes Park. I hear there can be some non-poisonous snakes. However, this is extremely rare. There are no poisonous snakes at this elevation.
Texans – Watch out for these unpredictable creatures. As an alumni of Ohio State University, these football fanatics scare me. LOL!