After lunch and a quick break at the Alpine Visitor Center during our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park we were ready to take on our next activity in the park.
Usually when we travel to a new National Park I'm most excited to check out some of the longer hikes. These usually lead you far away from the crowds that shorter options attract and afford you the opportunity to see things that many park visitors will never experience!
Rocky Mountain National Park has a little bit of something for everybody. For the more adventurous, there are numerous fourteeners that reside inside the park boundaries.
These are mountain peaks that will take you above 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) and will surely steal your breath along the way!
But most of us aren't mountaineers.
That's where the Tundra Communities Trail comes in. The trailhead starts you off at just over 12,000 feet (nearly 3,700 meters) and has minimal elevation gain. At about 1.0 mile roundtrip it welcomes visitors of all ages and ability levels.
It's the perfect hike for those looking to get a taste of what hiking at higher elevations can feel like. You'll also encounter the peculiar mushroom rock formations along this trail (more on those in a bit).
Planning a visit to Rocky Mountain? This post will help answer many of the most common questions when visiting the Tundra Communities Trail. Since this trail is short and located along the parks main road it should be on everyone's list of things to do during their visit.
Have a specific question about the Tundra Communities Trail? Jump ahead using the table of contents below:
Don't forget that Rocky Mountain National Park is now on the timed entry reservation system during peak season (end of May through early October). If you don't have a reservation be sure to head over to Recreation.gov to lock that in!
If you aren't familiar with that system - do not fear! I've put together a post highlighting how to get through the reservation process along with other useful tips. Check out my National Park Timed Entry Guide here!
Once you're finished reading this guide, be sure to check out the Rocky Mountain National Park Video Guide I put together over on my YouTube channel. It includes tons of great footage I shot during my visit throughout the park.
You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!
Where is Tundra Communities Trail Located?
Considering the Tundra Communities Trail is located near the center of Rocky Mountain National Park, along Trail Ridge Road, it can be accessed in somewhat similar times regardless of which side you enter the park from. Despite this I would still recommend staying in Estes Park for your visit since it provides easier access to the Bear Lake Corridor and Old Fall River Road.
It will take approximately 45 minutes to reach the Tundra Communities trailhead from Estes Park and slightly longer if you're coming from the Grand Lake area. If you enter from Estes Park the trailhead will be located shortly before reaching the Alpine Visitor Center. Visitors who enter from Grand Lake will need to go just past the visitor center.
The trailhead and parking area is visible from Trail Ridge Road which you'll be traveling along regardless of which side you enter from. Given the trailhead and parking area's proximity to the main road, you can't miss them!
What to Expect When Hiking Tundra Communities Trail?
This is definitely one of the easier hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. At 1.0 mile (1.6 km) roundtrip the distance is very manageable. The trail is paved and well-kept making for smooth travels out to the mushroom rocks and vista viewing area. There's a slight incline to the path, but nothing too strenuous. Some visitors still might feel the affects of altitude here so if you find yourself getting light headed or dizzy take a breather and walk at your own pace.
About half way through the hike you'll stumble across Rocky Mountain's infamous mushroom rock formations. A nearby sign offers a deeper explanation on how these intricate formations came into existence. In short, these mushroom formations exist because the different types of rock that created them eroded at different speeds.
Not long after passing the mushroom rock formations keep an eye out ahead and you'll spot some larger rock formations in the distance. If those rock formations are crawling with other visitors, you'll know you're in the right spot! Really, you can't miss them. Once you reach the rocks climb up if you'd like, this area offers excellent views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Tundra Communities Trail Parking
The parking situation at Tundra Communities Trail isn't too challenging. While this is a popular trail with somewhat limited parking, the short duration means parking spaces will turnover frequently.
Looking for tips to save on airfare? Check out a full post I wrote on the subject here!
As you drive along Trail Ridge Road you'll notice parking spaces adjacent to the road on both sides. There is a restroom facility and the road will likely be busy with visitors swapping in and out of parking spaces. Be sure to keep an eye out for pedestrians trying to cross the road in this area, there will probably be quite a few!
If there aren't any parking spaces when you drive through, there are ample pull offs in the surrounding area. Head down the road, wait a few minutes at a pull off enjoying some mountain views and try again. When I visited we had no issues securing a space on our first pass, but in general the lot was quite full.
Other Things to Know About Tundra Communities Trail
Is There Cell Phone Service at Tundra Communities Trail?
Cell phone service throughout most of Rocky Mountain National Park is minimal. However the Tundra Communities Trail sits at a high point within the park and I did have some luck receiving signal in this area.
How Much Does Tundra Communities Trail Entry Cost?
There isn't a fee specific to access the Tundra Communities Trail. The Rocky Mountain National Park entry pass and timed entry reservation are all you need. You can check out current rates at the National Park Service's website.
How Long Does it Take to Hike Tundra Communities Trail?
Start off by budgeting about 45 minutes of driving time from Estes Park. Take Trail Ridge Road into Rocky Mountain National Park towards the Alpine Visitor Center. You'll encounter the pull off before reaching the visitor center. The hike itself is only one mile round trip, including time spent taking in views along the way I would budget about one hour for this hike. Timing will be similar for those entering from the Grand Lake area. If you enter from the west, you'll want to drive just past the visitor center.
Are Pets Allowed Along The Tundra Communities Trail?
Sadly, pets are not allowed on The Tundra Communities Trail. While your pet is welcome to enter Rocky Mountain National Park, don't expect to take them with you on this hike or any of the other trails. Pets are only welcome around parking lots and certain campgrounds.
Is There Bathrooms at Tundra Communities Trail?
There are bathrooms at the Tundra Communities trailhead parking lot. There are no other facilities along the trail.
Should I Bring any Special Hiking Gear for The Tundra Communities Trail?
Hiking gear isn't necessary for the Tundra Communities Trail. The trail is well kept and the distance is relatively short. Just be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen per usual!
What is the Best Time of Day to Visit Tundra Communities Trail?
Given the short duration of this trail you can really visit any time of day. Keep in mind that during the summer months Rocky Mountain often experiences afternoon thunderstorms.
Also - don't forget to check out the Rocky Mountain National Park Video Guide over on my YouTube channel if you haven't already!
Looking for hiking gear recommendations?
Chances are if you're visiting Rocky Mountain National Park you'll be doing some hiking. If you're doing some hiking you'll want to have the right gear in order to have the best experience possible.
Finding gear that's functional, not overpriced, that also looks good can be a challenge.
For your convenience I've laid out some of my favorite hiking apparel below. All of the gear I link to below are items I personally own and have tested out on the trails. Quick disclaimer, I am an affiliate of several referral programs and I may earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
Hiking day pack - If you're in the market for a hiking day pack I'd suggest browsing REI's selection. If you've never owned one before you can go into a retail store and they'll ensure you find one that fits properly with any of the bells and whistles you may require!
Water reservoir - I have reservoirs from Platypus and Gregory that I really like. While these come in a variety of sizes I wouldn't bother with those smaller than 3L. You can always just fill up the larger ones part way if you're concerned about weight since they collapse to the same size.
Moisture wicking t-shirts - Patagonia makes really great hiking t-shirts that keep you dry all day long. They also perform well under multiple layers of clothing.
Hiking socks - I absolutely love the FEIDEER brand of hiking socks. I've tried some other hiking sock brands, but I think these take the cake! They make great socks for women and men.
There's nothing worse than missing out on a great hike because you didn't come prepared, don't be that person!
Check Out Our Timed Entry Reservation Guide
There's one mistake you cannot afford to make when visiting US National Parks. Showing up without a timed entry reservation is a surefire way to blow up what should be an otherwise stress free day exploring some of Americas most beautiful destinations. If the park you're visiting requires timed entry be sure to check out this guide.
Fortunately - we have put together a guide walking you through that process. We also provide useful tips on how to get the best time slots and what to do if you find yourself without a reservation.
You can access our Timed Entry Reservation Guide here!