Estes Park Wildlife

Animals Outside Our Estes Park Inn

Below we have provided information regarding the wildlife guests can enjoy while staying at any of the hotels in Estes Park, CO. Viewing wildlife is just one of the many amazing things you’re sure to see while you’re here in the Rocky Mountain National Park area.

Wildlife Viewing

While visitors to Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park love to see the wildlife, the wildlife doesn’t always love to see the visitors. Knowing a bit about the habitat each animal prefers can increase your odds of spotting our wild neighbors. From Alpine Trail Ridge Inn you can easily access the lakes, meadows and trails they call home.

The more visitors there are in an area, the less likely you are to see wildlife. They can see, hear and smell us long before we do them, so try to find a less travelled spot and sit quietly in the early morning or late evening. Watch and listen as the mountains greet the morning or settle down for the night.

Large Four-Legged Neighbors

Elk are the largest and most plentiful of the original inhabitants of our beautiful mountains. In recent years, they have grown in population and can now be seen year round. The elk roam from meadow to meadow munching on the grass, trees and shrubs. After the rutting season from mid-September through mid-October, they hang out in the Estes Valley for the rest of the winter. Much like you may be late to work due to traffic congestion, we may be late to work due to a herd of elk crossing the road (they take their time and they don’t look both ways!)

Elk calves are born during the end of May through June. As summer gets underway and visitors enter the park, the elk migrate to higher ground and can often be seen above the treeline. Looking down into the meadow bowls from the Alpine Visitor Center on top of Trail Ridge Road, the elk can be seen grazing on the tundra.

Mule Deer are more skittish than elk. They prefer to keep to the relative safety of the trees. Walk quietly and look into the forest for a chance at spotting a deer. Deer are more likely to dart across the road than elk. Where there is one deer, there are usually five or six right behind. Stop your car and give them a chance to cross safely.

Bighorn Sheep feel safe in more rocky areas that are difficult for predators to navigate. They blend well with their environment so if you see a rock move, it is probably a Bighorn Sheep. They are often sighted above the treeline, as well as some areas at lower elevations such as the Sheep Lakes area in Horseshoe Park at the north entrance of RMNP.

Moose like to feed in willow thickets. Two or three moose have been seen in the willow thickets near Sprague Lake however, a larger willow thicket habitat is found along the Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the park’s west side.

Exciting to See (from a Distance)

Infrequently, visitors staying at our Estes Park inn have spotted black bears taking a dip in the river or crossing a trail. Bears are shy and tend to avoid humans, at least until their instinct to put on winter weight leads them to raid the birdfeeders and trash cans of local residents. The National Park has installed bear-proof garbage containers at campsites and picnic areas. It is important that bears stick to their natural sources of food.

Mountain lions and bobcats also roam across the mountains engaged in their daily occupation, hunting. With plenty of natural prey and a strong lack of desire to interact with humans, these cats are rarely seen.

Small & Furry

Marmots can be seen catching some rays on rocks warmed by the sun along Trail Ridge Road, while the little mouse-like Pika scurry around collecting food and grasses for their homes. They blend so well with their surroundings, you may not notice them until they move.

Coyote, fox, porcupine and other smaller animals go about their business everyday. For predatory animals, having their hunt interrupted by humans can mean the loss of a meal so with their keen hearing and sense of smell they may choose to look for dinner well away from the crowds. The smaller animals however are probably glad for a well-timed interruption.

Although rarely seen, there are a few beaver busily working in our rivers. The ecosystems they create are an important contribution to the fish, animals and birds that live around them.

Flying High

In addition to our four-legged friends, our feathered friends are plentiful and varied. The beautiful Mountain Bluebird, the color of the clear blue mountain sky, finds the highest spot on a fence post, bush or any tall straight perch with plenty of open area to keep a lookout. The swallows, often with an emerald glint on their backs, fly and dive and swerve they way through the trees and meadows looking for lunch. The American Dipper of Water Ouzel, the size of a sparrow, dips under the cold running water of our mountain streams.

Hummingbirds hum and hover over flowers while their long tongues feast on the sweet nectar. The black and white magpie can be seen sitting on the backs of elk, not just for a rest but for the insects who are also hitching a ride.

As you eat your picnic, keep your eyes open for the thief. The Clark’s Nutcracker, also known as the Camp Robber, will sidle up next to you looking all innocent and cute until he grabs a bite of your lunch and flies away. His competitor the blue Stellar Jay will jump around and squawk, jealous at his buddy’s ability to take what he wants. Stealing food is one thing, but feeding the wildlife reduces their ability to find their natural food and survive the long mountain winters so please don’t entice them.

The pretty birds and the interesting birds are joined in the sky by the predatory falcons as well as the eagle (rare but seen). The Lumpy Ridge is home to many predatory birds.

Two-Legged Friends

Your two legged friends here in the office of Alpine Trail Ridge Inn are ready to greet you and point you in the right direction. We can send you on a wildlife viewing hike, scenic drive or to the “watering hole” (there are a lot of good restaurants in town). Book Now or call 1-800-233-5023 today and enjoy what the mountains have to offer.

(970) 586-4585

Check our reservations calendar to see availability and select you room.