|Of all the spectacular Western destinations, Rocky Mountain National Park is the closest to the Ohio Valley and the South, Midwest and East. It is an easy two day drive out I-64 and I-70, with one overnight stop each way at the Lawrence (Kansas) KOA, the best commercial campground we've seen. Once you've build a skill and organizational background with trips to state parks or local national parks like Cumberland Gap, the Smokies or Red River Gorge, Rocky Mountain is a natural next step. It takes you into the high country, up on the Continental Divide. Especially if you add the Indian Peaks Wilderness to the south, Roosevelt National Forest to the east, Arapaho National Forest to the west, and Never Summer Wilderness to the northwest, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the three greatest hiking and backpacking meccas in North America and maybe the world. Other places have good trails. But almost nowhere else has the sheer number and variety of trails.
Deep forest, high mountains, crystal clear lakes, alpine tundra, deep valley wetlands, glaciers, open meadows and thick heather are all found here. The trailheads are easily accessible. Campsites and trails are well maintained. It is truly a hiker's and backpacker's paradise. When you move up to Rocky Mountain NP, you need the long underwear, down sleeping bags, hooded parkas and sweatshirts, Goretex rain gear, and heavy duty tents. We've endured hail, sleet, ice, rain and snow, sometimes all on the same night, in July and August. Your odds are about 80% of experiencing heavy rain around 3 pm every day for about 30 minutes, and if you're up on the Divide, it will probably be accompanied by lightning and ear splitting thunder. This is no place for the fainthearted.
Don't even think of a Rocky Mountain trip in June. The snow does not melt off the trails until July, and you'll still be crossing traces of it on shaded north facing slopes.